INDIA : Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech to begin trial of intranasal Covid vaccine soon, Says Health minister Harsh Vardhan

Currently, there are no intranasal Covid-19 vaccine under clinical trial in India, clarified Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan today.

“However, Serum Institute of India has begun manufacturing Codagenix CDX-005 which is an intranasal, live-attenuated vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2,” Vardhan said in his sixth episode of Sunday Samvaad while interacting and responding to queries on social media.

At present, the Covid-19 vaccines closest to the finish line are designed to be injected into the arm. However, according to a recent Bloomberg report, researchers are looking at whether they can get better protection from inoculations that fight the virus at its point of attack — the nose and mouth.

An alternative to conventional jabs, sprayed and inhaled immunisations under development in the US, Britain and Hong Kong could play an important role in helping society escape restrictions that have upended economies and everyday life. Among their goals is to prevent the pathogen from growing in the nose, a point from which it can spread to the rest of the body, and to other people, reads the article.

During his weekly interaction, Vardhan remarked that although there are no intranasal COVID-19 vaccines under trial in India at the moment, Serum India and Bharat Biotech are expected to pursue clinical trials of such vaccines in India in the coming months on receipt of regulatory approval.

He clarified that the Phase III Clinical Trial is generally with thousands of participants, sometimes even close to 30,000 to 40,000 participants. It is possible that from a specific city or hospital, couple of hundred participants are selected at a given time, but in general, the overall Phase III participant pool is much larger, the minister said.

Moreover, the union minister also highlighted that there was no mutation of novel coronavirus found in the country yet. “I can assure you that as of now, no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research is already studying this matter in detail,” Vardhan added.

In a follow-up to a question from the last episode, Vardhan was asked on the Phase II of the COVID-19 grants to states. The Minister shared that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already released the Phase II of the COVID Package to 33 States and Union Territories. The total amount released in the second package amounts to a total of ₹1,352 crore. This Phase II grant has been released in tranches during the months of August, September and October 2020.

On the situation of containing Covid-19 spread in the country, Vardhan pointed out that after having good control during the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic situation, it has now worsened in Kerala.

“I would say that other states should learn a lesson from Kerala. All states need to be careful during the coming festival season,” said Vardhan.

The health minister shared his views on the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala. Noting that between January 30 and May 3, Kerala had reported just 499 cases and 2 deaths due to COVID-19, he regretted that Kerala was paying the price of gross negligence during the recent Onam festivities when state-wise unlocking of services, along with an increase in inter and intrastate travel for trade and tourism, led to the spreading of Covid-19 cases across various districts.

“Epicurve of Kerala changed completely due to Onam festivities across the State, the daily new cases nearly doubled,” he said. The Minister said this ought to serve as a good lesson for all the state government which were being negligent in planning for the festival season.