Every country has been affected by Covid-19, and nearly every people, economies have been devastated globally. While highly effective and safe vaccines have been developed, new waves of disease are still pushing health systems to the breaking point. India has shown to the world its speed and scientific excellence in introducing home-grown world-class Covid-19 vaccines.
As our nation accomplished an incredible task of vaccinating 70% of the population with made in India vaccines, as an industry our goal is to share our knowhow and manufacturing prowess across borders and contribute to the world’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy to minimise deaths, severe disease, and overall disease burden.
India is also on the cusp of developing a breakthrough nasal vaccine which will enter phase 3 clinical trials and has shown promise to arrest transmission of the disease. This is going to bring to the forefront a whole new science. Soon, India will demonstrate to the world a totally new approach to developing vaccines.
Our vaccines have successfully thwarted the onslaught of variants of concern largely, ensuring that severity is minimised, we also hope to find a solution to achieve larger immunity cover with new vaccine technologies.
India will also etch a place in history if the indigenous vaccine Covaxin is authorised in the U.S., which will become the first made in India vaccine to gain access to the U.S. market.
To build a healthy nation, giving children access to vaccines is imminent. As the adult population has gotten the Covid-19 vaccine, now it is time for the nation to work towards delivering the vaccine against coronavirus for children. Now that Bharat Biotech has received emergency use authorisation for the same, every 12–18-year-old will now gain access to Covaxin in the year 2022.
Another important quest for the vaccine industry is to forge more public-private partnership that has played a vital role in advancing science and innovation in India. Vaccines for the rotavirus, typhoid fever and Covid-19 vaccine have proven the strength of the PPP model. The PPP between the central government’s Department of Biotechnology, the Gates Foundation, Bharat Biotech, and other knowledge partners such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Stanford University to develop a rotavirus vaccine at the price of $1 and the development of indigenous vaccine of Covid-19 is great example of social innovation and PPP partnership.
The birth of Covaxin demonstrated the importance of PPP once again. India has been in the forefront of spreading the model, and the vaccine industry must continue to keep demonstrating success in the future too.
The nation also took the lead in technology transfer, having seen agreements being forged by the private sector with public sector undertakings to augment production of indigenous vaccines which we expect to fructify in 2022, when these companies will commence full production.
Furthermore, the Indian vaccine industry has secured the need, and lead India’s self-reliance objective in manufacturing raw material for vaccines like adjuvants (which enhance the immune system) and other chemicals, by forging tie-up with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to work on technologies and platforms for novel vaccines, drugs, and even raw materials, which will go a long way in ensuring uninterrupted supplies of vaccines.
Developing novel platform technologies for bio-therapeutics and vaccines to support indigenous, affordable healthcare solutions for humans and animals in collaboration with scientific research institutes will progress with much more vigour. To this end, more tie-ups with like institutions and scientific bodies like CSIR is required to bolster the raw material security.
The advancement of science in the year to come will be influenced significantly by the government's academic policies. As an industry that contributes to around 65% of vaccine need of the world, saving lives of children, adolescents and adults, Government of India will continue to play a crucial role in encouraging the industry to strengthen the biotechnology, vaccine, research, and development, including manufacturing, by becoming a de-risking partner.
Vaccine industry needs further easing of our public health policy, easing clinical trial restrictions, especially on the animal trials front, and providing research and innovation funding to nurture startups to dive into the vaccine field and bring about innovations to protect the public from future diseases that could become epidemics.
Most importantly, there is an urgent need to raise awareness about the science of vaccines, which can be collectively achieved by all stakeholders including the industry, government and the media.
As an industry we firmly believe the government can further push scientific institutions to collaborate with industry much more to strengthen our scientific ecosystem. It is also important for the government to build more institutes like Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL), Kasauli, the National Control Laboratory for testing of Immunobiologicals (vaccines and antisera) in other parts of India such as the Genome Valley in Hyderabad. A step has already been taken and we hope to have a vaccine testing facility in Hyderabad soon.
Creating the requisite financial infrastructure, supply capacity, and delivery services and at-risk investments ensures quick development of vaccines and the scientific understanding of infectious diseases. Besides private companies’ investments, the government funding will help the industry to take more risks and participate more vigorously in achieving the nations’ goal of making us free from infectious diseases that threaten both humans and livestock. The industry is also hopeful of overcoming limitations in cold chain and last mile distribution, that will make significant strides in the future.
In the year 2022, the vaccine industry anticipates more vaccine deals with other countries. Going forward vaccine manufacturers in India will attain larger annualised capacity to produce several billion doses as new facilities are being created. Bharat Biotech’s world class BSL-3 facilities are an outstanding example of being future ready, which helped us to develop Covaxin to tackle the highly infectious and transmissible virus.
On the innovation front, there will be further advancements in the research to find novel vaccines for chikungunya, malaria, zika, and several other infectious diseases that involve more than 8 billion emerging populations. Each of these vaccines have the highest potential to become very successful.
Vaccine industry has risen as the new hot destination for jobs, the demand for talent is on the rise, but the industry is grappling with talent crunch. New HR skill development practices, introducing innovative systems in logistics, technology, quality, and production are the lessons learnt during the pandemic period, what India needs is to consolidate its strength in each of these areas.
There is no denial that vaccine research and development is a high-risk endeavour fraught with uncertainty. As a nation we have demonstrated to the world that if there is a strong risk-taking appetite and a commitment to tackling public health concerns, this pandemic also opens a window to startups who will shape the industry in the years to come. We hope that this sense of confidence in our science will give rise to many more startups in vaccine research, development, and production in 2022 and beyond.
The Indian healthcare sector has experienced rapid expansion in the last decade, and the future decade promises to be even more promising. There is no other health intervention that is as fast, efficacious, or affordable as a vaccine. Vaccines, which currently prevent several million fatalities each year and minimise disease burden of several billions of dollars, will be the sunrise industry of the future.
Over the last decade, India’s vaccination and healthcare has witnessed rejuvenation with the expansion of vaccines in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) of the country backed by the emergence of new domestic vaccines players and introduction of novel vaccines. Several vaccines exist for diseases with moderate life-threatening potential. We hope these vaccines are expected to be included in the UIP at some point of time to further deeper penetration of vaccines to underserved population.
The industry is hopeful the process to study a new vaccine for inclusion in UIP, feasibility study and, recommendations to the health ministry, budget allocation for vaccines, final approval and national roll-out will be further eased. Most government and public health awareness building initiatives, apart from the successful polio vaccination program, appear to receive comparatively less notice from the mass media. The pandemic was indeed a catalyst to vaccine awareness building, which we hope will expand to other vaccines that can minimise disease burden.
We want India to be self-reliant and the vaccine industry will do everything it takes to make our nation proud of its science and scientific prowess. Most importantly, we want to be the catalyst for our young minds to develop even greater curiosity towards science.