But what is for all to see is the global race of releasing the first coronavirus vaccine in the world. With China’s Sinovac having reportedly reached the later stages of the human trial to Moderna, AstroZeneca and even our indigenous Covaxin, they all are competing to pass trials and reach the final stage. It is widely known that governments world over are putting pressure on their country’s medical institutions to come up with a faster release. While we all know that the focus is on the efficacy of the vaccine, the rush to release it faster makes it overwhelming for sure.
China, which is so far leading the race, wants to be the first to release the vaccine of the virus that started in their country. In fact, their major general and virologist, had said in a TV interview that if China happens to be the first to develop this weapon, it will demonstrate not only the progress of Chinese science and technology, but also our image as a major power.
Then there are Britain’s Oxford scientists who are reportedly sprinting on vaccine development, according to a report.
Then closer home ICMR was recently in the middle of controversy when they shared a letter that gave the August 15 deadline for the development of our own indigenous vaccine. The medical authority then clarified that its sole aim is to complete the vaccine’s clinical trials as soon as possible. But they assured that this wouldn’t mean rushing through the trials without proper results. The documents, reportedly, showed a trial period spanning 15 months.
The arduous process of developing a vaccine
Developing a vaccine is not an easy process. A good vaccine is said to have three important features – first that they are safe to administer, second that they produce a safe and appropriate response to the disease in question and third, that they are affordable for the target population.
To ensure that a vaccine is successfully implemented on all parameters, there are several tedious development stages that are diligently followed. There are pre clinical and clinical development phases, and due to the varying results, there are some vaccines that have taken years to release. This happens because sometimes it takes longer to understand the real mechanism to make a potent vaccine.
And this is what makes it extremely pertinent for researchers to acutely study, understand the immune response to the vaccine they are developing for coronavirus. A single error can lead to unforgivable setbacks, that can take us back in years.
Studies are still underway to understand if the virus mutates itself – like in case of the Flu vaccine where the virus mutates and thus, we have a new vaccine every year to fight from it.
Race to finish, also a race to superiority?
Some fear that certain countries may be seeing this as a platform to show their power and intellect. In an interview to a leading website, Naomi Rogers, a history of medicine professor at Yale University said, “It’s hard not to feel that their discovery (or whoever makes it first) … was the result of the special training that they got in their country, or the special resources that they were able to access in that country.”
But the silver lining is that this pandemic has taught societies and governments at large the importance of biotech in our society’s well being. In fact, this might just be the beginning of empowering biotech divisions as much as empowering our borders and national security.