COVID-19 vaccine

GS 3 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Introduction 

    A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease.        

A COVID-19 vaccine is a biotechnology product intended to provide acquired immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins.

Contemporary News:

  • Union Health Minister,has said that an India-made vaccine was likely to be available in “early 2021”. The government already has an expert committee on vaccine distribution.

DATA: over 6 million cases and the death toll from COVID-19, India is entering the first winter of the pandemic.

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Expert committee:

  • Has been tasked with the identification of the vaccine to buying to financing the purchase to distribution and administration.
  • Will take the decision on vaccines that will be effective for Indian citizens.
  • Task force will also chalk out a budget.
    • Discuss how capital can be raised for procurement, distribution of the vaccine.
  • A high-level panel will prepare a strategy on inventory management and administration.
  • Expert committee
    • who gets the vaccine first
    • how many will be eligible for the early doses
    • what the costs would be
    • whether there should be a cost at all for the majority of Indians

GAVI Covax alliance:

  • Has emerged as the largest coordinator of vaccine development as well as distribution of a probable vaccine.
  • Based on a combination of payments by 78 high-income countries and donations
  • Aims to ensure that between 15-20% of every country’s population.
  • Or at least their most vulnerable, are able to be inoculated first.
  • is coordinating the development and implementation of the COVAX Facility.
  • the global procurement mechanism.
  • will make investments across a broad portfolio of promising vaccine candidates(supported by CEPI).
  • to make sure at-risk investment in manufacturing happens now.
  • by pooling purchasing power from all countries that participate, will have rapid access to doses of safe and effective vaccines as soon as they receive regulatory approval.
  • is working with Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO
    • to ensure that the infrastructure is in place
    • the technical support available
    • to make sure COVID-19 vaccines can be safely delivered to all those who need them.
  • is also part of the health systems work of the ACT-Accelerator effort.
  • focusing on areas where it has expertise and experience, such as cold chain.
  • will then equitably distribute these doses to help protect the most at-risk groups in all participating countries.

Vaccination:

  • The pandemic comes to a halt when there are enough people immune in the population, and the virus can no longer transmit from person to person.
  • two ways we get immunity
    • by getting the infection
    • through vaccination.
  • For many diseases, we build up our immunity by getting the infection in childhood.
    • is true of many coronaviruses that exist in the world today.
  • The difference here is that this is a new virus that no humans have seen before.
  • so it will take a while for that immunity to build up.
  • The problem is that if you just have a virus spreading wildly until everyone is immune, there will be lots of people dead in the meantime.
  • That is where the vaccines may be able to intervene.
  • by generating immunity without facing the consequences of the infection.
  • Many countries are thinking, initially, about how to protect those at greatest risk, like hospital workers, older individuals, and those with comorbidities. 
  • Though the tests were ‘free’, they were first available only in government facilities.
  • contributed to a significant pool of untested carriers and a rapid spread of the virus that was only marginally blunted by the lockdown.
  • There are at least three Indian companies testing their own vaccines, and so a prohibitively expensive vaccine, besides being unacceptable

Phases/process of Vaccines development:

It is expected that a Vaccine would be developed within 4-5 months.

  • Phase 1 – involves a basic understanding of the virus 
    • to identify the structure of proteins
    • Identify genetics that make up the virus
  • provides a basis for developing diagnostics kits
  • Provides potential treatment options.
  • Phase-2 – It involves the identification of vaccine candidates 
    • by isolating the live virus before inactivating
    • weakening that can be used for immunity development.
  • Phase -3Pre-clinical testing
    • is the stage before the vaccine can be tested on human
    • Vaccine is tested on the animals in this stage 
    • to see the response.
  • Phase -4Clinical trials
    • involves testing on humans.
    • There are 3 phases of clinical trials.
1. clinical trial is conducted on small group of healthy individuals.
  1. indicates what is the ideal dose required to administer in the next stage.
  2. vaccine’s ability to generate an immune response and its safety.
2. the range of participants is expanded to few hundred healthy participants to check the immune response system in the body.
  1. to check the immune response system in the body.
  2. also assesses the time period for which antibodies last to provide immunity against the virus.
3. involves a very large group of people to investigate its efficiency among large population groups.
  1. Half of the population is administered the actual Vaccine.
  2. other half are administered dummy vaccines.
  • Phase- 5: After Vaccine is successfully tested, it would require regulatory approval before it can be produced in bulk quantity.

Challenges:

  • Priority–Within the country, it is certainly not clear who should be treated first 
    • it should be determined by need
    • affordability
    • vulnerability or 
    • some other criterion 
    • or combination of all.
  • Guideline– The need of a policy regarding how much of the vaccine produced should go to other countries and at what cost.
    • ensure whether agencies funding the research or
    • the researchers or 
    • government authorities or 
    • citizens decide on a global policy of distribution.
  • Adult Vaccination program
    • at the adult population does not have much awareness right now. 
    • Vaccination is currently limited to children and pregnant women.
  • Distributive hierarchy–The cost of the vaccine and its possible loss will have to be borne by the last receiver which likely to be more needy people of the society.
  • Cost– 
    • If open market forces determine the cost of the vaccine and affordability 
    • then the section of society most vulnerable to the disease would get left out.
    • Affordable prices ensure that more people around the globe have access to these life-saving tools.
  • Post-Vaccination antibody tests:
    • there will be requirement of reliable anti-body tests that can provide right info on impacts of Vaccination. 
    • Presently available anti-body tests are unreliable.

Way Forward

  • need to have enough doses of the vaccine available
  • need to be able to vaccinate enough people to stop the virus in its tracks.
  • deliver the vaccine on a scale
  • the logistics of preventing infection is everyone is going to be a huge, mass vaccination programme.

Conclusion 

      It is to be anticipated that vaccine delivery will be a protracted process and it will be a long time before the average citizen has access to it.

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