India developing seven more COVID vaccines, says health minister

The COVID-9 inoculation process for people aged above 50 will start in March

PTI01_19_2021_000183A Representational image | PTI

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday said that India is working to develop seven more COVID-19 vaccines. This would be in addition to Covishield—AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford—and Covaxin—India's first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR—already being used to inoculate frontline workers. Vardhan said India does not have any immediate plans to make vaccines available in open market. 

The COVID-9 inoculation process for people aged above 50 will start in March, he told reporters. "We are not dependent only on the two vaccines as the country is working on seven more indigenous vaccines. Simultaneously, we are also working on the development of more vaccines because India is a huge country and we need more players and research to reach out to everyone," he said. Three of the vaccines are in the trial phase, two are in the pre-clinical stage, one is in phase 1 and another in phase 2, the Union health minister said.

Who are the Indian vaccine candidates in contention?

At least seven Indian pharma companies are working to develop a vaccine against coronavirus as they join global efforts to find a preventive to check the spread of the deadly virus that has already infected more than 14 million globally. Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, Zydus Cadila, Panacea Biotec, Indian Immunologicals, Mynvax and Biological E are among the domestic pharma firms working on the coronavirus vaccines in India.

Biological E Ltd has entered into an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, part of pharma major Johnson & Johnson, for creation and enhancement of production capabilities to manufacture the latter's COVID-19 vaccine.

In collaboration with HDT Biotech Corporation, USA, Gennova has developed an mRNA vaccine candidate (HGCO19), with demonstrated safety, immunogenicity, neutralisation antibody activity in rodent and non-human primate models. 

Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) had kickstarted research along with an Australian University to develop a vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19). They will use the latest codon de-optimisation technology to develop the vaccine. In the past, the technology has been used to reduce the virulence of several RNA viruses including Zika virus.

-Inputs from agencies