As coronavirus cases surge across the world, with little relief in sight, the world got good news on Monday. After pouring lots of effort into research, Pfizer and its partner, the German company, BioNTech, announced preliminary results that suggested their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective and finally soon this vaccine will give us a way to get out of the restrictions that have been imposed on all our lives. Till now their vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised hence trial suggests that the final product may be ready this year itself, but India may not immediately benefit from it.
Pfizer spokesperson said this is a vaccine that was developed by using mRNA technology and it makes use of the messenger RNA molecules that tell cells what proteins to build. The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein of the novel coronavirus. Once the mRNA is injected into the body, the cells will use its instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which is in return expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it. But the due to its extremely stringent temperature requirement for mRNA vaccines it is making it difficult to be used in India as part of a national immunization strategy. Further added it is expected to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
However, Pfizer has tied up with German drugmaker BioNtech and Chinese company Fosun for the distribution of this vaccine in Europe and parts of Asia but India is not part of this global deal. As the reason behind India not signing any advance purchase agreements with global or domestic vaccine makers is that the mRNA vaccine will need to be stored at minus 70 degrees(ultra-low temperature freezers) which is not available in India, therefore it seems impossible for India even it has appeared as a challenge even in the country like the US too. Therefore the Indian government is not enthused about procuring the vaccine.
ET reported, “This is why most national immunization programmes, especially in countries like India, would look to choose a vaccine that is easier to administer.”