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Covid-19 vaccine by India ‘rescued the world’, says top US scientist

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date
Covid-19 vaccine by India ‘rescued the world’, says top US scientist

Houston: The mega vaccination programme rolled out by India in collaboration with leading global institutions to free the world from the grasp of deadly coronavirus “rescued the world” said a top American scientist.

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Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston during a recent webinar also said the contributions of India must not be underestimated.

India is one of the world’s biggest drug-makers and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for its vast experience and deep knowledge in medicine and to procure coronavirus vaccines.

During the webinar,  “Covid-19: Vaccination and Potential Return to Normalcy – If and When” Mr Hotez, an internationally-recognised physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development said that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is “India’s gift” to the world in combating the virus. The webinar was organised by Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH).

India’s drugs regulator gave emergency use authorisation to Covishield, produced by Serum Institute of India, Pune, after securing licence from British pharma company AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, indigenously developed jointly by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research scientists.

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Dr Hotez, considered as the authority on vaccinations and is working on an affordable coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with Indian pharmaceutical companies.

“This is something very special and I see it myself because I’m on weekly teleconferences with our colleagues in India, you make a recommendation, and within days it’s done and not only done, but it’s done well and with incredible rigor and thought and creativity,” Dr Hotez said, stressing that he felt compelled to make this statement because “India’s huge efforts in combating global pandemic is a story that’s not really getting out in the world,” said Mr. Hotez in webinar.

There is increasing evidence that vaccines not only “interrupt symptomatic illness and keep you out of the hospital” but halts asymptomatic transmission as well.

However, the troubling news is that the vaccines work well against the UK B.1.1.7 variant, which is now accelerating across the US, but doesn’t work quite as well against the variant coming out of South Africa.

It is likely that all the vaccines will require a booster for two reasons: the durability of protection for the vaccines is unknown and to create an added immune response that’s better tailored towards the South African variant.

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Consul general of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, along with a distinguished panel of doctors participated in this webinar, that tracked the possibilities of a return to some semblance of normality due to the accelerated roll out of vaccines across the country.

Appreciating Dr Hotez for commending India’s efforts in getting vaccines to the world, consul general Mahajan, said, “In keeping with our tradition of sharing with the world, India has exported vaccines to many countries across the world.”

India has provided 56 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccines under grants assistance to a number of countries. The vaccines were sent to Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles.

There has also been a boost in the collaborative medical partnerships emerging between the US and India during this pandemic. In addition, India is one of the fourth largest destinations in Asia for medical devices manufacturing and many US companies have expressed interest in collaborating on this front, Mahajan said.

IACCGH founding secretary/executive director Jagdip Ahluwalia said that “India’s response to the Covid crisis, as acknowledged by Dr Hotez, falls in line with Chamber’s vision. Since its inception, 21 years ago, India would be a future global player in key areas like technology, medicine, manufacturing and international trade. This belief has been proved time and again particularly in the last decade.”

Chamber president Tarush Anand expressed pride that India has risen to this global challenge by leveraging the brilliance of its scientific community and extensive manufacturing capabilities in the most efficient manner to help the world recover from a deadly pandemic.

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Describing vaccines as “one of the highest expressions of science in pursuit of humanitarian goals,” chief Radiation Oncology officer and moderator Dr Vivek Kavadi noted that over 28 million people had contracted the virus in the US and more than half a million Americans had tragically died. Lives and businesses had been upended but the breakthrough on the vaccine front has been one reason for cautious optimism.

So far, more than 73 million vaccine shots have been administered till date, 15 per cent of the population has received 1 dose while 7 per cent have received both doses, claimed Dr Kavadi.

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