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Published On: Sat, Jul 4th, 2020

‘Vaccine by August 15’ meant to cut red tape, says ICMR

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corona-vaccine-testingNEW DELHI :  Defending the August 15 target for launching Covaxin, India’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, amid criticism from the scientific community, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Saturday said the process is “in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development”.
The safety and interest of Indians is the topmost priority, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Saturday after a memo from the agency triggered a backlash for setting August 15 as a target for developing a corona virus vaccine, from both medical experts and the opposition.
“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel,” the ICMR said in a statement after the scientific community questioned the “near impossible timeline” in getting a vaccine ready for public health use.

The official claim by the ICMR that it envisaged the “launch” of the vaccine for “public health use latest by August 15” has sparked fears that its safety and efficacy could be compromised to meet the timeline.
The August 15 timeline is mentioned in a letter that ICMR director general Balram Bhargava wrote to the 12 hospitals selected for carrying out clinical trials of Covaxin, a candidate vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company, in partnership with Pune-based National Institute of Virology, an ICMR laboratory.

The letter by ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava that asked doctors in 12 hospitals to “fast track” clinical trials also stumped some doctors and researchers, who said it was unrealistic to set a six-week deadline for a candidate vaccine whose safety and efficacy trials have not even started.

“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel,” the agency said.
The vaccine trials will be done following the best practices and rigor, and will be reviewed, as required, by a Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), ICMR said.
Several other health experts and political parties also questioned the launch date proposed in the letter, which was widely shared on social media.
Asserting that scientific advances cannot be “made to order”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Saturday alleged the ICMR was trying to rush the vaccine so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could make the announcement on Independence Day.
While,  Chavanalleged on Saturday that the ICMR’s plans to launch a coronavirus vaccine by August 15 was aimed only at enabling the prime minister to make a big announcement from the Red Fort.
“Why is ICMR rushing for an unrealistic timeline of
August 15th for Indian corona(virus) vaccinewhen global
experts aregiving 12 to 18 months’time frame,” Chavan
tweeted.The Congress leader alleged that the ICMR was in a
hurry to develop a vaccine only so that Prime Minister
Narendra Modi could make a major announcement from the Red Fort during the Independence Day address.
(With ndtv Inputs).

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