India readying roadmap to ensure Covid vaccine reaches all in ‘shortest time’, ICMR says

In the latest edition of its e-newsletter, ICMR has lauded its own efforts in bolstering India’s testing capacity, saying it ‘has broken the global perception’.

Representational Image | Bloomberg
Representational Image | Bloomberg

New Delhi: A roadmap is being devised for distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine to ensure it reaches everyone in the “shortest time”, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said in the August edition of its internal newsletter, e-Samvaad.

The latest issue, released Tuesday evening, focuses on vaccines under development, detailing the top three candidates that are in different phases of clinical trials in India — Covaxin, developed indigenously by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the ICMR, drugmaker Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, and ChADOx1, which is being jointly developed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford (Pune-based Serum Institute of India is a partner for the latter and the ICMR a second sponsor agency in conducting clinical trials). 

“Once we get a go-ahead from scientists, we are ready to massively scale up mass production,” said an editorial titled ‘ICMR scripting history in combating Covid-19 pandemic in India’ published on the newsletter’s front page.

“India is preparing for the challenges of production, distribution and mass immunisation once the vaccine is successfully tested,” it added.

The editorial said the strategy of “testing, tracking and treating” is improving every day, but adds, “…as the country continues to grapple with the debilitating human toll of the ongoing pandemic, the timely development of an effective vaccine seems a promising tool to save lives.”

Also Read: 9 reasons why Covid vaccine will be widely available in 2021

‘Vaccine trials being done following best practices’

The ICMR has urged the importance of following best practices in vaccine development — a refrain it has repeatedly adopted since a controversy erupted over the apex medical research agency’s push to have Covaxin out by 15 August, a deadline seen by the scientific community as impossible if proper procedure is followed. 

“…Development of vaccines needs to follow the best practices and globally accepted norms,” ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava is quoted as saying in the ‘Vaccine news’ section on Page 3. 

In the front-page editorial, the ICMR has reiterated that “vaccine trials are being done following the best practices and globally accepted norms and will be reviewed by a data safety monitoring body as required”.

Lauding India’s testing capacity 

Lauding its own efforts in expanding India’s testing capacity, the ICMR said in the editorial that it “has broken the global perception and is on its way to position itself as an outlier in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic”. 

It pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set a target of 1 million Covid-19 tests per day by August, and the ICMR achieved it “way before the time limit”.

“It’s a significant achievement for India, given the diverse and the low testing capacity it started with in January 2020.”

It added, “Just to put numbers in context, India has tested more than 4 crore samples across the country, testing around 74.7 people per lakh population through more than 1,500 Covid-19 dedicated diagnostic labs across India.” 

Also Read: Thousands of doses of Covid vaccine hopefuls are ready to go — if one works