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Sunday, Sep 27, 2020 13:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Sep 27, 2020 07:50 [IST]

In search of COVIDVaccine


Smallpox is believed to be the first infected disease in the earliest agrarianhabitats on our earth. The devastating disease affected all races and regions of the worldkilling 3 out of every 10 people who infected.Description of smallpox was reflected in ancient Sanskrit literature (300 BC)and believed to have originated from India or Egypt during 3000 BC. The first vaccine (Smallpox) was discovered in 1798 by English doctor Edward Jenner. However, Louis Pasteur is remembered for his remarkable breakthrough (first laboratory vaccine, 1879) for discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization.

We all have marks on arm as it’s a result of smallpox vaccination i.e. BCG. The substance used to stimulate the production of antibodies and provide immunity against one or several diseases. It is prepared from the causative agent of a disease, and treated to act as an antigen without inducing the disease. Children are vulnerable to infectious diseases thereby inoculation is given for new born baby to produce immunity against an infection yet new disease outbreaks oftenand goes pandemic.It faded by wiping out parts of the population but finally ended as we learned from the timeline of history’s worst pandemics. It is possible through medical care and public health initiatives that halted the further spread of other diseases. The modern human civilization has largely been affected by overseas trading and travel and they are facing such infectious disease as human civilization flourished. The deadliest bacterium caught fatal infection in our recorded history.

Those who survive have immunity during the Plague of Justinian in 541 CE. People have no understanding to fight against pandemic. But they tried to avoid sick people. 800 years later (1347), Black Death claimed 200 million lives in Europe but they overcome by forced isolation to 40 days. The practice of quarantine had actually begun then. The sick people were forcibly shut into their homes during the Great Plague of 1665 to prevent the spread of the disease. The people of Europe, Asia and Arabia were infected by Smallpox virus during 15th century. In 18th century, the pandemic is ended by a vaccine first ever.

Vaccination in India was injected in 1802 for Smallpox in Bombay. Vaccines were imported from Great Britain until 1850. The first vaccine developed in India by DrHaffkine for plague in 1897. But mass vaccination efforts by British began only after the outbreak of Cholera and plague (1896-1907) and First World War (1914-1918) where Influenza pandemic killed 17 million Indian. The 1919 act brought the health service delivery being a state subject. Smallpox, cholera, plague and typhoid were available in India in early 20th century.At the time of Independence, India reported maximum number of smallpox cases and there were cholera, plague and Tuberculosis too. In 1949, the BCG vaccination was extended to schools in almost all states of India in close cooperation with UNICEF and WHO.
India is self-sufficient in the production of BCG vaccine at the time of independence. Later it produced DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), DT, TT, Measles and OPV (oral polio vaccine). Soon India declared smallpox free in 1977, it launched national immunization programme for BCG, OPV, DPT.In 2012, WHO had removed India from polio endemic countries.Vaccination is a proven to be the most cost effective survival interventions. WHO helps countries to have immunization programme for women, infants and children. The antigens against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measlesand hepatitis B are common in most of the countries in the world. India provides 7 antigens namely BCG, OPV, D.P.T, Measles and HepB.

In 1980, World Health Organization announced the eradication of smallpox from the face of our planet. Cholera (early to mid-19th century) is a victory for public health research. Although it is largely been eradicated in developed countries but it is still a persistent killer in third world countries.Now Corona has created havoc around the world. Most countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable and alarming for India. The worst thing in the world is that there is no vaccine against the Covid virus.

The question remain unanswered today how long before we can get a Covid vaccine. There are vaccines in the race from pre-clinical stage to Phase Trials I, 2, 3 and production. The Phase 3 Trial of the Covishield is being jointly developed by The Serum Institute of India with Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca and Trials 3 are on England, India, Brazil, South Africa and the US. Currently there are about 165 different vaccines for COVID-19 being developed around the world. But Russian adenovirus vector-based vaccine (Gam-COVID-Vac under the Sputnik V brand) got world’s first anti-COVID vaccine to gain regulatory approval. The mass production of the vaccine in India, South Korea, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Cuba are on the pipe line. The plan is to ramp up the vaccine production to 10 million doses per month by the end of December. The global demand for vaccines exceeds 3-5 billion doses and Russia hope to meet up to 25% of these needs.

The recent development of production of Sputinik V in India is a win-win situation for our country. India has the network of companies that are well-known for vaccine manufacturing of high quality and also the capability to manufacture in large and significant quantities which is good for Russia, India and rest of the world too. Also Russia seeks India’s help for plan to conduct Phase 3 clinical trials in different countries. The field of development of vaccine against Ebola and MERS helped Russian to develop COVID vaccine in less than a year but for a full cycle of the development and sale of vaccine can take 10-15 years. Until a vaccine arrives, many people die in the meantime. When most of the population gets infected it helped survivors, the virus can’t find new hosts and the outbreak fizzles out. Also enough vaccine needs to be manufactured and distributed around the world to prevent the virus from popping up again. Scientists are developing tests to identify people with antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi