The vaccine juggernaut arrives in 2021, but not without challenges

“Vaccines offer great hope to turn the tide of the pandemic,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization in his New Year’s message.

But there is also caution. The global risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection remains, he said, until all at-risk individuals are vaccinated, not just those who can afford the vaccines. And the WHO-backed COVAX facility (for equitable vaccine distribution) needs $ 4 billion “urgently”, he said, to purchase vaccines for low-income and low-income countries. lower middle income.

The year 2021 will be the year of “execution”, where the heavy weight of the vaccine really begins to roll, to immunize vulnerable populations and health workers, to begin with.

But challenges lie ahead, ranging from a shortage of supplies to unprepared hospitals to deal with possible side effects that could arise after vaccination. And this, even as the world grapples with another variant of the virus reported in several countries, including the United Kingdom and South Africa.

The variant is considered to be more transmissible, but not more virulent, and this may reflect the virus’s counterintuitive pathways in that it will not terminate the very host it needs to survive, Srinath Reddy points out, Chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India. .

Regarding vaccines, he said it is important for people to understand that vaccines do not prevent a person from contracting the virus, but protect them from disease (Covid-19). So, despite the vaccine, the person can still infect other people, but perhaps less, he said, recalling that public health measures and personal protection (mask, removal and hand washing) must Continue.

Currently, more than 230 Covid-19 vaccines are in development, 60 in clinical development and 172 in the preclinical stage, according to the WHO. At the end of the pandemic year, the combination vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Gamaleya Research Institute, and Sinopharma received approvals for emergency use, whether at home or in hospitals. other countries.

The Indian Serum Institute has entered into an alliance with AZ-Oxford University to manufacture and market its vaccine in selected countries. The vaccine is set to receive a green signal from the Indian regulator for use in the country after recently receiving Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the UK.

Ready for side effects

Highlighting the different levels of efficacy reported on this vaccine (62 percent, 80 percent and 90 percent, depending on variable and scaled doses), scientific voices are calling for greater transparency on vaccine trial data.

Doctors further stress the need to prepare in hospital to combat possible side effects associated with the vaccine. The AZ vaccine had to suspend global trials, for example, to investigate an incident in the UK which was later cleared by the regulator. An incident reported in Chennai was also said to have been cleared by the Indian regulator because it was unrelated to the vaccine.

Pfizer and Moderna have newer mRNA vaccines and are warning people with a history of severe allergies to take it. Pfizer has applied for an EUA in India.

In addition to this, the Russian vaccine Sputnik V has entered into a clinical trial alliance with Dr Reddy’s laboratories, in addition to a production agreement with Hetero Biopharma. Other Covid-19 vaccines under development locally include candidates from Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, Biological E and Panacea Biotec. Since this is only local programming, the New Year will see more Covid vaccine-related activity, a development that will require an equally vibrant ecosystem to monitor.