The Ministry of Science and Technology on Sunday published an article on India’s attempts to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Written by Dr TV Venkateswaran, it spoke of the global race to find a vaccine against the coronavirus and how India is among the 140 candidates across the world working to find a cure. The article was uploaded on the official website of the Press Information Bureau (PIB).
“With the primary scientific inputs coming from institutions like Pune based ICMR institution National Institute of Virology and Hyderabad based CSIR institution Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, six Indian companies are working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Along with the two Indian vaccines, COVAXIN and ZyCov-D, the world over, 11 out of 140 vaccine candidates have entered the human trials. None of these vaccines is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021,” the article said.
This statement comes two days after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued a letter to 12 labs and hospitals across India to fast-track clinical trials for the vaccine candidate ‘Covaxin.’ ICMR had stated in the letter that it has envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use “latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials.”
Several users took to Twitter to point out the contradiction between the statement on Sunday and the ICMR’s August 15 deadline.
Later, the statement was quietly edited out. A new release was uploaded without the line "None of these vaccines is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021."
Earlier today @PIB_India put out a press note in which it was clearly stated that “None of these vaccines is unlikely to be ready for mass use before 2021”. Then when this was pointed out, the line was quietly deleted... https://t.co/vHZTfc1SM2 pic.twitter.com/a8GD8gFdSl— Padma Priya D (@priyakamal) July 5, 2020
On Saturday, the ICMR had issued a statement defending its plan to launch a COVID-19 vaccine by August 15 this year, stating that the letter was sent to ‘cut unnecessary red tape’ and that all global norms were being followed.
“The letter by DG-ICMR to investigators of the clinical trial sites was meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants,” ICMR said.
“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 statement added.
ICMR also said that the trials will be done following the best practices and will be reviewed, as required, by a Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB).
The vaccine ‘Covaxin’ is being developed in collaboration with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) and the Drugs Controller General of India has accorded permission to conduct phase 1 and 2 clinical trials.