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Karnataka may get coronavirus vaccine by early next year: Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar

By Express News Service

BENGALURU : Karnataka could get a Covid-19 vaccine by early 2021, said Health and Medical Education Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Tuesday. He was speaking after a meeting with representatives of pharma major AstraZeneca, which is conducting trials for the Covishield vaccine in India, along with drug manufacturer Serum Institute, Pune. The company is conducting trials on a global scale in collaboration with Oxford University, UK.

“The first stage trials were completed successfully 56 days ahead of schedule. The second and third stage trails will be conducted on 1,600 people in India. We have asked the company to conduct trials on more number of people. The company projects to supply vaccines for 100 crore people,” said Sudhakar, adding that the government is committed to providing a vaccine for all.

The Managing Director of AstraZeneca, Gagandeep Singh, technical advisory committee chairman Dr Sudarshan and Drug Controllerate officials, who were present at the meeting, also discussed how the vaccine will be distributed in the state, the gaps, hurdles and the way forward.

In the AstraZeneca trials, antibodies were produced in 28 days in healthy persons who were not Covid-19 positive. In the second and third phase of the trials, people who are Covid positive, children, adults and the elderly will be administered the vaccine.  If the trials are successful, the state will issue vaccines once the Centre approves it. Health workers and persons with comorbidities will be vaccinated initially.

The process of developing a vaccine usually takes 5 to 6 years, but with the current pandemic, companies across the world are racing to produce it within 7-8 months, the minister said. Sudhakar will also have a meeting with Bharat Biotech, makers of the Covaxin vaccine, soon.

Responding to questions on the cost of the vaccine, Sudhakar said it was too premature to comment if it will be given for free or if it will be priced, as the trials itself are at an initial phase. AstraZeneca has said that they are not producing it for profit and that it is meant for public benefit, but they will only recover the production costs. A technical committee, including experts, representatives of the Union Health Ministry, epidemiologists, technology partners and logistic partners, will be formed to decide on the vaccine pricing and distribution. They are expected to meet next week, Sudhakar pointed out.

Talking about reducing Covid-19 numbers in the state, Sudhakar said the government  is neither hiding nor providing any wrong information. The WHO itself has appreciated the State Government’s transparency in providing Covid-19 statistics, he stressed.

 “The winter months of November, December and January are approaching and people must take precautions, as we do not know how the virus will spread,” the minister cautioned. In Karnataka, trials for Covishield by AstraZeneca and NVX-COV2373 by Novavax are taking place at JSS Medical College, Mysuru, and trials for Covaxin by Bharat Biotech is taking place at Jeevan Rekha Hospital, Belagavi. 

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