Corona vaccine still far away

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A vaccine would be the ultimate weapon against the coronavirus and the best route back to normal life. But if there was any time to fast-track a vaccine, it is now. While lockdowns and other measures are widely
employed to counter the spread of the coronavirus all over the world, widespread efforts are also on to find an effective medical response to it. There is no known cure now, and the treatment is limited to treating the symptoms or the body processes or the organs which are affected, without targeting the virus as such. This is because the virus is new and its nature is largely unknown, and the existing remedies for virus-related diseases are ineffective against it. But with millions of people being affected by it, finding a preventive medicine or a cure has become urgent, and the world’s medical and scientific research establishments are focussed on it. Normally, researchers need years to secure funding, get approvals and study results piece by piece. But these are not normal times. There are already at least 254 therapies and 95 vaccines related to Covid19 being explored. Over 100 private companies and institutions associated with governments are said to be separately or collectively involved in the research. It is happening in India also, and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) announced last week that it week that it was partnering with Bharat Biotech to develop a vaccine.
All the research efforts are directed at either developing a vaccine or finding a drug to cure the disease. Vaccine development takes many years and even in the best circumstances at least 18 months. Even in the most hopeful
scenarios, the waiting period is from some months to a year. There are reports that clinical trials of vaccines have
started, but they may lead to positive or negative results. Even after a vaccine is developed, it will have to be industrially manufactured and commercially supplied in adequate quantities, and this may also take time. Vaccines are considered to be better weapons against the disease than drugs because they are preventive in nature. But much research is being done on drugs too. There was some excitement when a US company recently announced that it had received the US FDA’s emergency approval for the drug Remdesivir. But even this has only
limited effect and will be fully developed and marketed only by 2022.
With rigorous testing and contact tracing — where infected patients are identified and their recent contacts notified and quarantined — and the future starts looking a little brighter. It is clear that all vaccine and drug candidates will take time before they are ready for use. It is also possible that a company that makes it will try to make maximum and even unreasonably high commercial gains from it. Countries where it is developed may claim the first right to use and keep it for the use of its entire population first. It may be used for political or economic bargain with other countries. But the other option is herd immunity whose costs are also unpredictable.

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