The World Health Organization (WHO) said on August 21 that although a vaccine will be a vital tool in the global fight against COVID-19, a vaccine will not end the pandemic on its own.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the virus has infected more than 22.7 million people worldwide and killed at least 794,100. There are currently at least 30 vaccines in clinical trials, according to the WHO.
Three COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in various phases of development in India. Two of these have been developed by Indian companies, including one Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and the other by Zydus Cadila Ltd. The phase-one human trials for both have been completed and the trials have moved to phase-two.
The Serum Institute of India (SSI), which partnered with AstraZeneca to manufacture the University of Oxford vaccine, has been permitted to conduct phase two and three human clinical trials in India.
Recently, reports were floated around saying that this vaccine would be available in 73 days. However, SSI called this information “completely false and conjectural”.
According to Dr. Gagandeep Kang, the logistics of manufacturing, reviewing, regulation, licensing and then distribution and the time all of this will take means that even if the vaccine is cleared completely, it will not be widely available to everyone immediately, and it doesn’t mean that everyone can be treated with it. In other countries, frontline workers have been prioritized in terms of administration of the vaccine, and high-risk patients take the next priority. However, these issues have been whitewashed in recent speeches by the Prime Minister where he has promised that the three vaccines being developed will be ready for mass distribution and associated it with the launching of the new digital health card.
The WHO has said that since the virus was only discovered in December and scientists still don’t fully understand how it affects the body or how well someone is protected from reinfection after recovering, and so there is no guarantee for a vaccine being completely effective, especially over time.
Instead, the WHO has emphasized the need for public health measures to stop transmission. The pandemic needs to be tackled at different levels all at the same time- testing, isolating and treating patients, tracing and quarantining their contacts, informing the public, and empowering and listening to communities.
Efforts to respond to climate change need to be accelerated and the pandemic needs to be taken as an impetus to restructure economies. The WHO guidelines are in complete contrast to the current actions of the Indian government, which has been taking this pandemic as an excuse to exploit workers and marginalized communities and privatize the economy further, which will lead to fewer and fewer sections of society being able to survive the pandemic.