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India has the capacity to develop vaccines against future pandemics

Are we prepared for future pandemics and viruses (Photo: IANS)

India is ready to make vaccines quickly for future pandemics as our research institutes, regulatory bodies and the industrial sector are prepared. The vaccines can be developed quickly as India has become a powerhouse of capabilities to design vaccines for viruses of the future, said Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, former principal scientific advisor to the Government of India.

He was speaking at an international meet on ‘Preparedness for Future Epidemics’ and whether India is in a position to make a vaccine quickly. The two-day international seminar is being organised by the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI).

Dr Pramod Garg, Director THSTI, highlighted the pioneering role played by the institute during the Covid-19 pandemic because of its multi-disciplinary approach. A relatively new institute, it has acquired all possible capabilities related to the development of vaccines except for manufacturing these.

A recurring theme in the conference was the coming together of experts, the coordination between research institutes, industry bodies and regulatory agencies in India despite the lockdowns and the scare of the virus. The last three years of the spread of the virus have demonstrated excellent collaboration between academia and vaccine manufacturers.

Dr Umesh Shaligram from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the manufacturer of the Covishield vaccine said that his institute has already developed a pandemic preparedness facility for the future. Shaligram said the SII is trying to understand the ecosystem of all diseases through the Detect Treat and Prevent strategy to achieve disease burden reduction and elimination.

Speaking online from the Netherlands, Prof Bernard AM Van der Zeijst from the Leiden University Medical Centre underlined the fear that there is a real chance that there might be another outbreak of an epidemic. He said: “Predictions are impossible yet researchers are trying to make predictions about when there might be another outbreak by studying pandemics of the last four centuries”.

One of the scientists, who remained in news during the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic in India was Dr Priya Abraham – the then director of the National Institute of Virology (NIV). She highlighted that India has to take up vaccine research for a number of viruses which have pandemic potential. Now working with CMC Vellore, Abraham said that India has developed best practices to handle the nastiest of viruses that may emerge in India or other parts of the world.

The experts also expressed worry that the rate of vaccination is low in many parts of the world – a theme that came up for discussion by Indian as well as foreign scientists.

Dr Guruprasad Medigeshi from THSTI said that the institute is supporting vaccine developers in many countries. It is now forging ahead in vaccine development and academic research as well.

Dr Ankur Mutreja from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an international  body, said that CEPI is looking at developing a vaccine in just 100 days. He added that this is a challenge, “an aspiration to develop a vaccine in 100 days”. CEPI is working to ensure that vaccine development is accelerated so that countermeasures against disease threats can be taken against all people in need.

Also read: Global South now looks up to Modi and his team for Covid 19 vaccines after India crosses 1 billion mark