Vaccine nationalism

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/5/2021 12:45:29 PM IST

 Millions of people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 and so far, more than a million have lost their lives because of the pandemic. A huge global research effort is taking place to bring a fast-tracked vaccine to the market. Currently there are more than 165 vaccines being developed, with some already in human trials. The race to be the first to obtain the vaccine against COVID-19 has led to some expressing concerns about drastically cutting short the time needed for “trials”. Vaccines undergo at least three phases of human trials before they get approved. During Phase I, small groups of people(around 100) receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and vaccine is given to 1000 to 2000 people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to 10,000 to 20,000) people and tested for efficacy and safety. Many vaccines undergo Phase IV formal, ongoing studies after the vaccine is approved and licensed. What has dominated the concerns about the manner in which the trial periods have been drastically cut short is about the side effects. According to eminent virologists, it takes anywhere between ten to fifteen years to produce an efficacious vaccine. However, because of the extreme urgency to halt the rampaging virus, some pharmaceutical firms have rushed to conduct trials within 11 months. Physical distancing, the use of masks and test, track and trace programmes are currently the only effective measures against the spread of the disease, and economic sectors that rely on close physical proximity between people, such as recreation and retail, will continue to be the most affected.Even in terms of cost, it is estimated that investments to find discover an efficacious vaccine is a whopping Rs.95 lakh crore. The total wealth of India as per reports is around Rs.13 lakh crore. The COVID-19 has become the most deadly virus that has not only caused a global health crisis but also ruined the economies of countries. National governments are spending trillions of dollars to fight the negative economic impact, but until there is a vaccine or other treatment widely available, the financial cost will continue to be felt around the world. Even when a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is eventually developed, further challenges will emerge with regard to the manufacturing and distribution process. There is a threat that 'vaccine nationalism' could have negative consequences on how well the global pandemic is managed and contained. This is also evident in India where the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation accorded approval for restricted emergency use of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and the indigenously developed vaccine Covaxin of Bharat Biotech. A doctor-cum-research head of a lab affiliated to a government research lab also expressed reservations about the nod given to Covaxin since its efficacy has not been proved. Malini Aisola of the All India Drug Action Network questioned the motive of top experts in the Subject Expert Committee(SEC) of the government in approving the covaxin post-haste. The government’s director of AIIMS however said covaxin was only a “back up vaccine” to be used in emergency but was not forthcoming about its efficacy. Vaccine nationalism is thus, an invitation to one problem while trying to solve another.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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