Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently announced the government’s decision to roll out two more vaccines soon in India. This is much needed to cater to India’s vast population. Given that safety and efficacy will be key to this decision, public health and medical experts underline the key elements that the Indian government should carefully consider.
“The decision of the Indian government to consider approval for more vaccines is a much needed and timely move, to 30 crore population. Genova Pharmaceutical, Zydus Cadila, and Sputnik V are among the candidates most likely to get approvals soon. I have heard positive outcomes for most of these candidates that gives me a lot of confidence. It is encouraging to see that The Lancet article confirmed positive outcomes and provided additional data about the safety and efficacy of Sputnik V in different subgroups. According to the study, the efficacy of Sputnik V stands at 91.6%. Compare it with Covishield (India) which stands at 62.1%, Sinovac (China) at 50.4%, Sinopharm (China) at 79.3%. The Sputnik V vaccine is relatively easy to produce and transport amidst the expected shortage of vaccines globally and logistical problems in the roll-out of vaccines that are temperature-sensitive,” says Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Chairperson of the Indian Academy of Public Health and Indian Alliance of Patients Group, Former Senior Advisor at UNICEF and Former Director at IIHMR.
“World Health Organization and the Director-General of the Indian Council of Medical Research mention that the vaccination against COVID-19 vaccine should give minimum 50% protection to be recognized as effective. The vaccines that recently cleared phase III of clinical trials, however, have exceeded that expectation. Pfizer, Moderna, and Sputnik V had passed the efficacy test with 90+% during phase I and II; Sputnik V, however, is the first adenovirus vector vaccine to achieve the 90% efficacy seen with the two mRNA vaccines after phase III of the clinical trials. The peer-reviewed journal Lancet published interim analysis data of Phase III trials of the vaccine involving over 20,000 adults in Russia and found it 91.6% efficient. It also shows that a sub-analysis of over 2,000 participants aged over 60 years indicates that the vaccine was similarly effective and well-tolerated in the elderly as well. Over 98% of volunteers developed humoral immune response and 100% – cellular immune response,” says Dr. Gajendra Singh, Public Health Expert.
“The efficacy of any vaccine is dependent on the technological platform it utilized. Sputnik V is based on a human adenovirus platform, a tried and tested one that was used to fight Ebola in the past. AstraZeneca vaccine on the contrary is based on chimpanzee adenovirus is not very popular among the scientific community. Moreover, vaccines such as Covishield and Sputnik V are fit for Indian terrain since they can be stored at +2º+8ºC in contrast with mRNA vaccines with much more extreme temperature regimen of -70º-20ºC,” Dr. Debkishore Gupta, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist and Head of Infection Control, CK Birla Hospitals, India.
While there are over 150 vaccines in different phases of development across the world, there are very few (discussed above) that have proved their efficacy against COVID-19. Nevertheless, safety and efficacy are the key aspects that the Indian government should be considering while choosing new vaccines for India.