Indian pharmaceutical companies have been thrust into the race to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, riding on the country’s established reputation of making affordable drugs for the poor.
While the rush has seen the US, UK, Russia and even China compete to be the first to deliver the elusive vaccine to the world, some 30 Indian firms say they are separately at different stages of research to develop an affordable vaccine for the world.
The World Health Organisation has already greenlighted seven vaccine candidates. They include ZyCoV-D by Zydus Cadila, a pharma giant based in Ahmedabad City.
Last week, it announced it was launching the first phase of trials.
“We are testing two versions of our vaccine, one which makes use of molecular DNA to elicit an immune response, and another which uses a live measles viral strain to provide protection,” Pankaj Patel, CEO of Zydus, said.
From the outset, India’s race looks much like those elsewhere but the question for poor people like those in Kenya and Africa concerns the cost of the vaccine.
Mr Poonawalla said it is too early to give a figure, especially since trials tend to disappoint but he thinks they will keep it under 1000 Rupees (about Ugx. 52,200)
“Our aim is to deliver an efficacious and affordable vaccine,” he said, adding that he believes priority should be given to vulnerable groups such as healthcare workers, frontline staff, the elderly and others with underlying health conditions who have weak immune systems, and children when it comes to distribution.
Scientists will need to study the virus in phases, find out what kind of vaccine can work, develop the vaccine, test it on animals, then move to trials in humans.
None of those stages have any predetermined periods or outcomes, meaning some studies may take longer than others.
Professor Matilu Mwau of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) admitts that whoever will deliver the vaccine first to the African market will have their influence dramatically increased.