Cold chain infra for covid vaccine

Context: India must improve its cold chain infrastructure to avail benefits of new vaccines

Elaborate about the potential covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer?

  • Potential covid vaccine: Multinational drug company Pfizer has announced promising results from its ongoing phase-3 trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Effectiveness in trials: Pfizer, which is using a vaccine candidate by German firm BioNTech, had disclosed in September that for a vaccine to be judged 60% effective, 164 volunteers would have to contract COVID-19.
  • Sample size: The claim of 90% is based on a sample of 94 volunteers but it is not known how many belonged to either group. It is also unclear if those who were eventually infected, manifested mild or moderate severity of disease.
  • Awaited result: There is still time to be reliably sure that the results actually hold up in a wider population.
  • There are no large phase-3 trials of the ‘Covishield’ by the Serum Institute or ‘Covaxin’ by Bharat Biotech Ltd vaccine in India.
  • India’s access to vaccine: While there were early discussions with Pfizer, there is as yet no confirmation on whether India can be assured of early access to even a fraction of the vaccine output in the event it is readied.
  • m-RNA technology: The vaccine candidate is based on an m-RNA technology, which avoids the use of an infectious particle, such as a portion of the virus, and uses a piece of RNA that is then made into an antigen by the body’s own machinery.
  • Faster production: It also does not need to be cultured in chicken eggs or other mammalian cells, allowing it be made faster and more inexpensively.
  • Optimum temperature required: They also reportedly need to be refrigerated to nearly minus 70°C and India, with its limited cold chain infrastructure, lacks efficient vaccine storage capacity.
  • Basic strategy: It shows that scientists’ basic strategy of developing a vaccine to target the spike protein of the virus is correct and given that this is an approach most vaccine developers are following, the chances of several encouraging results are high.
  • Moderna, also employs an m-RNA based approach, it is likely that the new vaccine platform may prove to be a breakthrough approach in developing future vaccines.

Way forward

  • India must keep a close watch on such platform-technology and develop expertise. It must also not lose an opportunity to improve its cold chain infrastructure which currently is developed only for rudimentary vaccines.
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