COVID-19 vaccine unlikely before 2021: Govt officials inform Parliamentary panel
Top government scientists and officials from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology on Friday informed a Parliamentary panel that there is no likelihood that a COVID-19 vaccine will be developed before 2021 after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had earlier stated it would be ready this year.
K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Indian government along with officials from CSIR and the science and technology departments, told the members of the Parliament Standing Committee on Science and Technology and submitted their presentations. In their report, they informed the government on the preparations to be sought including speaking about vaccines, drugs and pharmaceuticals and health equipment.
The meeting had seen the participation of only six of the 30 members. Considering there has been a restriction on movement imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Committee chairman Jairam Ramesh had earlier written to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu thrice in the last three months asking for the panel's meeting to be held virtually.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Ramesh said, "Our Standing Committee did not have a quorum today, but it certainly had decorum. I thank all fellow committee members across party lines who attended the meeting under tough circumstances and the officials who enriched the process. Our democracy is strengthened by such interactions,".
It is being reported that the committee was informed by the officials that a vaccine for COVID-19 will only be commercially available in early 2021. The vaccine could either be developed and manufactured within India or developed elsewhere in the world with its production to be carried out in India. Citing that health security is of paramount importance just as defence security, the committee has stated that more emphasis should be laid on the development of low-cost medical devices such as ventilators costing under Rs 30,000.
It is to be noted that the ICMR had earlier this month said that a COVID-19 vaccine for "public health use was being planned at the latest by August 15". In a letter by ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava, he had written about the August 15 timeline to 12 hospitals specially chosen for clinical trials of COVAXIN, a candidate vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Pune-based National Institute of Virology, which is also an ICMR laboratory. However, there was a select group of scientists and medical experts in the top brass who called the timeline for the vaccine development as "unreasonable" and "absurd". A letter was later written by the ICMR clarifying the timeline saying it "was meant to cut unnecessary red tape".