Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad-based company was established in the year 1996 by Dr. Krishna M. Ella and Mrs. Suchitra Ella whose vision was to establish a company to create innovative vaccines and bio-therapeutics. With a strong backbone of intellectual capital for the manufacture of innovative vaccines, Bharat Biotech has over 160 patents. It has developed vaccines like Rotovac- a Rotavirus vaccine that became the first vaccine under the “Make-In-India” initiative. It has also become a leading company in manufacturing vaccines for Hepatitis B, Typhois, Zika Virus, etc. It developed the Revac-B+ vaccine- the world’s first Caesium Chloride free Hepatitis B vaccine. It also became the largest manufacturer of Hepatitis B vaccine by expanding its capacity to make 100 million doses annually. New and improved vaccines against severe Rotavirus Diarrhoea, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Pandemic Influenza, etc. have been taken up for development and production. It is the first biopharma company in India to be audited and approved by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) for the manufacture of an injectable vaccine. Bharat biotech has developed an effective partnership with companies such as Wyeth, Acambis, Novavax, and it has ongoing collaborations within and outside India such as the Department of Biotechnology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), National Institutes of Health USA, Centres for disease control the USA, etc. Their contribution is of immense significance in the development and cost-effective production of biotherapeutics and vaccines.
As the recent pandemic due to Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) also knows as Wuhan Virus hit the entire globe, Bharat Biotech came forward as a saviour in such times and developed an indigenous vaccine called COVAXIN in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)- National Institute of Virology (NIV). The inactivated vaccine is developed in Bharat Biotech’s high containment facility. The inactivated vaccine in simple language means the vaccines have a weakened version of the virus which cannot replicate in our body but encourages the production of T cells (a type of white blood cell which forms an essential part of the immune system). The T cells are like soldiers who search and destroy targeted invaders. Since the vaccine is inactivated, repeated doses are required to be administered for immunity to be achieved.
COVAXIN developed by Bharat Biotech is a 2-dose vaccination regime given 28 days apart. The vaccine got DGCI approval for Phase I and Phase II trials in July 2020 last year. The vaccine demonstrated 81% interim efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in those without prior infection after the second dose. A study from the National Institute of Virology indicated that vaccine-induced antibodies are capable to neutralize the UK variant strain and other heterologous strain. COVAXIN’s Phase I trial has been published and all 375 subjects showed notable elevated antibody response. Phase II trials have not been published yet but the data provisional data indicate enhanced immune response. Phase III trials have begun and the study has enrolled 25,800 participants between the ages 18-98 years of age with 10% over the age of 60.
The company is aiming at producing 700 million doses annually which will be one of the largest productions of inactivated vaccines worldwide.
Bharat Biotech has shared all the general information regarding the vaccine on the official website.
According to an article published in Business Today, the Bharat Biotech vaccine is found to be 78% effective and works against most COVID-19 variants. Dr. Krishna Ella, MD, and Chairman, Bharat Biotech said “Efficacy against SARS-Cov-2 has been established. COVAXIN has demonstrated an excellent safety record in human clinical trials and usage under emergency use. COVAXIN is now a global innovator vaccine derived from Research & Development from India. The efficacy data against severe COVID-19 and asymptomatic infections is highly significant, as this helps reduce hospitalizations and disease transmission, respectively.”
The bench-to-bedside journey of completely indigenous COVID-19 vaccine in less than 8 months showcases the immense strength of Atmanirbhar Bharat [self-reliant India] to fight the odds and stand tall in the global public health community. It is also a testament to India’s emergence as a global vaccine superpower”, said Prof. (Dr.) Balram Bhargava, Secretary Dept of Health Research and Director General, ICMR in an official press release.
He also said, “The tireless efforts of our scientists at ICMR and BBIL have resulted in a truly effective international vaccine of the highest standards and efficacy. I am also happy to note that COVAXIN works well against most variants of SARS-CoV-2. These findings together consolidate the position of our indigenous vaccine in the global vaccine landscape.”
“The development and deployment of COVAXIN ensure that India has a powerful weapon in its arsenal in a continually evolving pandemic situation and will go a long way in helping us win the war against COVID-19. The need of the hour is to ensure that people in India continue to receive the vaccine and break the chain of virus transmission,” said Dr. Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Disease, ICMR and Director, National AIDS Research Institute.
India began its vaccination program on January 16th, 2021 which was one of the largest vaccination drives with more than 3 lakh people getting vaccinated on the first day. The first group included healthcare and frontline workers. The second group included people over 60 years of age and persons between ages of 45 and 60 with comorbidities. Those who were above 45 years started getting vaccination from April 1st, 2021, and in a recent development, the government has taken an extremely important decision to vaccinate people age 18 and above. The vaccination for this age group will begin from 1st May 2021 and the registration has already started for the same. As of 25th April 2021, India has vaccinated 8.6% of its population with at least one dose and 1.6% of the population is vaccinated fully. India is planning on vaccinating 300 million of its people by July 2021.
Under India’s Vaccine Maitri Program which was an Indian initiative to vaccinate the entire world. India has shipped over 5.85 crore doses to over 70 countries in the entire world including Brazil, Dominica, Nepal, Bhutan, Barbados, Canada, etc.
Amidst the rising COVID-19 cases and the healthcare infrastructure collapsing, it is of grave importance that India vaccinates as many people as it can and as fast as it can. People have been spreading lies and fear-mongering and many of them have politicized the vaccine calling it a BJP vaccine and spreading misinformation about its side effect and pricing.
ICMR released a chart last week in which the percentage of people who got infected after the first and second dose of vaccine has been shown.
These numbers are a ray of hope because, after the first dose of COVAXIN administered to 93,56,436, only 4208 which forms 0.04% were found to be positive and after the first dose of COVISHIELD administered to 10,03,02,745, 17145 which is 0.02% were found to be positive.
I remember a famous saying “Fear is wisdom in the face of danger” which is perfectly suitable in this case. The poorer section of society is not afraid of the current scenario; hence, they do not feel the need to get the vaccine. The middle-class person has a significant level of vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and fear-mongering on various social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Twitter. People should be afraid of another lockdown as it will lead to a catastrophic effect on the economy which forms the backbone of any country. Seeing the trend of rising cases, unless you get vaccinated, the country is bound to see another major lockdown.
In my opinion, the government must undertake some program where they encourage people to take the vaccine shot be it COVAXIN, COVISHIELD, SPUTNIK V. It would be easier to remove vaccine hesitancy if someone they trust comes forward and ask people to vaccinate themselves say for example MLA’s, MPs, from the respective constituencies, celebrities, sportsperson, etc.
Humanity, compassion, and generosity are the different fabrics with which India is woven. India has vaccinated so many countries but it is equally important that we vaccinate our people as well.
सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
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