If there is one thing the whole world wants right now, it would be a COVID-19 vaccine because that is a sure-shot way of defeating the deadly coronavirus. World over and especially in India, it is being realised that social distancing doesn’t work very well if there is not a complete lockdown since people tend to ignore the guidelines and advisories. And a complete lockdown takes a toll on a country’s economy.
For example, India’s economy shrank second straight quarter during July-September 2020 by 7.5%. The GDP growth was a negative 7.5% vis-à-vis the previous quarter’s 23.9% negative growth. Though it’s a great improvement over the previous quarter, the Indian economy technically has gone into recession with its GDP contracting for two straight quarters. The improvement in the second quarter came due to the ease of lockdown and opening of the economy which helped boosting sales and consumption and in turn GDP growth.
This means that a vaccine is a must to end this crisis. Currently, at least 30 vaccines, the world over, are in various stages of development and most seem to work. In the past few days, there have been reports of a few vaccines showing a strong success rate. A vaccine developed by the US company Pfizer has 90% efficacy and another developed by another US company Moderna has also performed impressively in trials.
However, these vaccines may not be relevant to India. The Pfizer vaccine can only be kept at very low temperatures and therefore is unsuited for storage and transportation in India. The Moderna vaccine is easier to transport but is expensive and most of its first year’s production is already earmarked for the West.
For India, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine seems to be more promising. The vaccine is being developed by Serum Institute in India. However, it has shown an average efficiency of 70%. Some testing error has also been reported. The dosage was wrongly given to a set of volunteers which showed a success rate of 90% but it is being reasoned that this set was younger and so they may have shown a better efficiency due to their age. Maybe, if the testing is done again on a larger group of all ages with half the dose as was given to the younger set, the success rate gets higher. The encouraging point is that it does not seem to have any adverse side effects. The Russians have also tied up with Indian company Hetero to manufacture their Sputnik V vaccine in India. Then, there are a few vaccines being developed indigenously including those by Zydus Biotech and Bharti Biotech. As India is keeping a close watch on the development of these vaccines, the vaccine storage and distribution infrastructure is also being spruced up.
Hopefully, we should have a vaccine soon. Till then, stay safe and keep practicing social distancing.