New Delhi: India’s vaccine czar, Dr N.K. Arora, Chairman, Covid-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), has said the country has “a very robust pipeline for new vaccines”, which will be in place in the “coming eight to 12 weeks”.
Listing the vaccines in the pipeline on the weekly health show, Health4All Online, presented by HEAL Foundation and IANS Wellness, Dr Arora said: “There is the Gennova mRNA vaccine, which I think is going to be the gamechanger for the entire world. The Phase-3 trial for it has started. It should be available in January to our people.”
Dr Arora said the intranasal Covid vaccine being developed by Bharat Biotech is also on trial. “This is an exciting and vectored vaccine, which the world is getting for the first time,” Dr Arora said. “An intranasal vaccine isn’t injected. A small amount of it is put in the nose, which makes it easy to deliver. Next year, we are going to have 4-5 billion doses of vaccines.”
He reminded the audience that ZyCoV-D, the world’s first DNA vaccine, has been released by Cadilla Healthcare. “The manufacturer will deliver one crore doses of the vaccine by the first week of December,” Dr Arora added.
Moving on to the issue of vaccination of children, Dr Arora said: “According to the latest serosurveillance reports, more than 80 per cent of children in the country have developed natural infection, but the vaccination of children is important as they are vehicles of transmission, though the severity of the disease is very less among them.”
He assured the audience that there is no scarcity of vaccines for children. “The vaccine pipeline for children is also ready,” Dr Arora said. “I hope, by the first quarter of next year, we will be able to start vaccinating children.”
Talking about the interval between vaccine doses, Dr Arora said: “When we increase the gap between two doses, the immune response will be better. That is why from May 13 this year we increased the interval between two doses from three to four months.”
Dr Arora added: “If the second dose is given after three months of the first dose, it works as a booster dose. I must clarify here that we increased the interval between the two doses for scientific reasons and not because of any vaccine shortage.”
Participating in the online discussion, Dr Sanjay Kumar Rai, Professor of Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, said vaccines do not protect individuals against Covid-19. What works for individuals is herd immunity, and India is very close to achieving it, he pointed out.
Dr Rai, who is also the President of the Indian Public Health Association, said: “Singapore is an example. Ninety per cent of its population is vaccinated, still, there’s been no let-up in the severity of the Covid-19 infection. Wherever natural immunity does not develop, a booster dose won’t benefit people.”
“We are very close to achieving herd immunity across the country and in major cities such as Delhi, we have already achieved it,” Dr Rai said, adding that “natural infection provides the best protection”.