Herald View: The risks of fast tracking vaccine development

Humanity needs a vaccine to arrest the spread of the pandemic. But it does not mean that we put huge number of human beings at a greater risk in a mad rush to invent a vaccine

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
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NH Web Desk

India is now at the cusp of a second COVID-19 wave. The data related to the deadly pandemic is clearly alarming. The last fortnight has seen India touching a new high in numbers as far as the Coronavirus cases are concerned. And last week, both the country as well as the national capital of Delhi have seen an alarming rise in numbers. On September 10, for instance, Delhi alone recorded its highest daily rise of over 4,000 plus cases. The country as a whole has already pipped Brazil to occupy the number 2 position in the world in terms of number of cases. If the trend continues, which seems quite plausible, India will soon be the global capital of the pandemic that has turned a deadly threat to both human health as well the entire economic system.

The worst thing about the COVID-19 problem is that both the central government as well as most state governments have adopted an Ostrich-like attitude while dealing the situation. The entire official machinery seems to be focused on managing the economy while leaving the pandemic to run amok. The only noise one now hears from official quarters is about a vaccine that could somehow arrest the spread.

There seems to be a race going on between various governments to come up with a vaccine. American President Donald Trump has made it an election issue. He has already declared that the US will be ready with a vaccine to control COVID-19 by October. He is in a rush to somehow come up with one before the United States goes to polls in November. The Russians have already launched a vaccine defying international medical norms. They are even ready to export it to anyone willing to buy from them. The Indian government seems to be in a hurry to pip others to the post in this mad race. India had allowed a Serum Institute of India, a Pune-based medical firm, to go ahead to test the Oxford vaccine that initially showed signs of early breakthrough. But the Oxford vaccine had a major setback last week. The UK-based company AstraZeneca announced that some of the trial patients have developed ‘’serious side-effects”. It was such a serious development that AstraZeneca suspended the trials. But its Indian partner refused to take the cue and declared that vaccine trials will go on as scheduled. It panicked the medical fraternity.

The very next day, the Drugs Controller General of India director, VG Somni, sought explanation as to why trials have not been suspended in the country. There are indications that officials let the trials go here in India. It naturally led to furore and Serum Institute was forced to suspend the trials. Obviously, the COVID-19 vaccine is not on a fast track. Humanity needs a vaccine to arrest the spread of the pandemic. But it does not mean that we put huge number of human beings at a greater risk in a mad rush to invent a vaccine. We urgently need a vaccine. But we need to avoid short cuts to get one.

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