Is India’s rush for a coronavirus vaccine being driven by national pride and China tensions?

Is India’s rush for a coronavirus vaccine being driven by national pride and China tensions?

  • Indian officials gave a five-week deadline for the first Covid-19 vaccine trial, aiming to have it ready by independence day on August 15
  • Amid increased protectionism and a record surge in cases, health experts warn political pressure is affecting the race to develop a home-grown vaccine

The Indian government’s original aim to have its first home-grown coronavirus vaccine ready for public consumption by its independence day on August 15 has been mired in controversy, as the country reported another record surge in Covid-19 cases on Thursday, taking its total to over 1.5 million infections.

Human trials of Covaxin have started at most of the 12 shortlisted vaccine testing sites across India, with 100 people so far being administered doses. About 1,100 people are expected to participate in the two phases of the trial, which will examine safety, dosage levels and immunogenicity. However, there is no clarity on a concrete timeline.

“In the first 100 individuals, we haven’t encountered safety concerns and these results are encouraging. This is a good indication of the safety of the vaccine candidate and in three more weeks we will know whether this could be successful against Covid-19,” said Dr Savita Verma, who leads the clinical trials in Haryana.

But another supervising doctor at a facility in South India, who declined to be identified, said there was “implicit pressure” from government organisations to hasten the process.