Coronavirus WHO vaccine development: Global health agency the World Health Organisation (WHO) has renewed its invitation for countries to join the agency-led alliance for faster development of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, according to a report by IE. The alliance, called COVAX facility, had been formed in April and it forges agreements with developers and manufacturers of the vaccine candidates that it believes would most likely succeed, the report added. This alliance, the agency believes, would lead to equitable access to the vaccine by all.
The report stated that the facility is attempting to raise funds so that the promising vaccine candidates can be developed quickly, and also to ensure that the manufacturing capacities can be expanded quickly. This would lead to a rapid mass production of the vaccine once it has been approved. The report cited the facility’s initial estimates to state that the agency believed that about $18.1 billion (approximately Rs 1.36 lakh crore) would be required to fund the research and development, the production as well as the distribution of the vaccines to various countries. The facility has the objective of procuring a minimum of 200 crore doses of a vaccine against coronavirus by the end of 2021, so that they can be distributed among low- and middle-income countries, the report stated.
While the latest announcement has not revealed how many countries have already joined the alliance, the report cited a July 15 statement by the WHO to state that by then, 75 countries had expressed their interest in joining the facility. These countries, the WHO had said, were also willing to help the global agency raise funds for the purpose. The report stated that the facility’s member countries are assured the supply of the vaccine whenever one is found to be successful, and these assured supplies would protect at least one-fifth of the countries’ populations.
The report stated that the health agency said the COVAX facility would ensure that by backing several vaccine candidates, it would gain access to the candidate which meets the requirements and is approved for use. Apart from that, the countries who do not have access to the US’ resources and are therefore unable to get into individual bilateral agreements with several vaccine developers to get advance supplies, would also have a chance of accessing the vaccine through COVAX.
Last week, Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII) entered into an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to produce 10 crore doses of the vaccine for low- and middle-income countries was a part of the COVAX mechanism, according to the report. The COVAX mechanism is being executed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI (which was previously known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The 10 crore doses would be provided to the eligible countries for $3 per dose, the report stated, adding that the foundation has agreed to provide SII with $150 million (approximately Rs 1,124 crore) so that the institute could rapidly enhance its production capacity.
In another development, according to Russia’s earlier announcements, the vaccine candidate being developed at the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute could be approved this week, the report stated. If the candidate wins regulatory approval, it would become the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus to be approved for public use, even as a Chinese vaccine is being used in limited capacity on the country’s army personnel as of now.
Russia had said that the vaccine candidate, which is being developed by the institute jointly with the defence ministry, would receive the approval by August 12, followed by availability for public use by September. So far, the country is planning to undertake mass vaccination from October.
However, there is skepticism regarding the safety as well as the effectiveness of the vaccine due to the speed at which it has been developed, considering the fact that about 160 other candidates are not likely to be developed before at least the year-end. The skepticism is mainly stemming from the fact that the clinical human trials of the vaccine, which can span a few years in normal situations, were completed for the Russian vaccine candidate within two months. According to the Russian authorities, this was because the vaccine developed by them is similar to an extensively tested vaccine to tackle MERS, which is caused by another coronavirus.
But as per reports, at least Britain would not be using the vaccine developed by Russia on its people.