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COVID Vaccine and Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP), 2020

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Syllabus:  GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education and Human Resources.

Synopsis: The hasty Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the two COVID-19 vaccines is against draft Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020. 

Introduction

Open Science principle is a global movement. It advocates steps against unethical practices such as fabrication and falsification of data, plagiarism, unethical authorship, etc.

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP), 2020

The Government has prepared a draft of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) in December 2020 based on the principle of “Open Science”.

To implement ‘Open Science’ principles, STIP, 2020 provides for the following provisions:

  1. First, creation of Open Science Framework: It will provide everyone with access to scientific data, information, knowledge, and resources. 
  2. Second, FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) terms: Under FAIR terms, all data of publicly funded research will be available to everyone.

However, EUA to 2 vaccine candidates without efficacy data is not consistent with this policy of the government.

ReadDST releases Draft 5th National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (forumias.com)

What are the two first vaccine candidates?

  • First, Covishield: It is developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute in India. The overall efficacy of the vaccine:

Major concerns on this Vaccine are 1. Limited ethnicity data in the present trials and 2. The absence of results on elderly people above the age of 55.

  • Second, Covaxin: It is developed by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). EUA was provided to vaccine while It was undergoing Phase III trials.

Research on these vaccines was public-funded research. The ICMR funded the clinical trial site fees for Covishield and collaborated in the development of Covaxin. Thus, these vaccines fall under the scope of the draft STIP 2020. So all data on these vaccines must have been available publicly. 

What are the implications of non-transparency?

  • First, It may result in erosion of public trust in science and scientist.
  • Second, It hampers the Self-critical and self-correcting nature of science. It includes scientists analysing the data available on new researches.

Way Forward 

The government should implement STIP 2020 on a priority basis. It should make the data across the different stages of COVID-19 vaccine research public on ICMR’s open access repository, the Department of Science and Technology, or other open access repositories identified by the CSIR.

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