Vaccination-the most relevant way to revive economic health globally

Countries across the world have incurred heavy economic losses yet were unable to tackle the virus.

While the series of lockdowns seemed to be a viable solution to contain COVID-19 ever since the pandemic hit the world early this year; the decision however, had a boomeranged effect. The countries across the world have incurred heavy economic losses yet were unable to tackle the virus. The impact has been so much that, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)recently declared that the current pandemic has caused the largest economic downturn of the last eight decades raising the poverty rate across the world, widening the economic inequalities and damaging many long-term economic growth prospectsi.Even as businesses across the globe are striving hard to continue their work, there are still several organisations and commercial firms reluctant to re-start their ventures for fear of contracting the disease. In such a scenario, the only plausible key to safeguard the health of the people is widespread vaccination and that will eventually lead to economic revival. Therefore, the safe and effective vaccine that can be manufactured in large quantities and distributed globally is the need of the hour.

A peek into the history of mankind can throw up innumerable proofs about how vaccination has made great contributions to healthcare. Global immunization programmes against many important infectious diseases of childhood has been improved drastically since the conception of WHO's Expanded Programme of Immunization in 1974 and of the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization in 2000. As per estimates, vaccines have prevented almost six million deaths every year from vaccine preventable diseases.

The benefits of making a vaccine available as soon as possible can be more than one if looked from different perspective. While, from a public health point of view, vaccines play a significant role at lowering the number of people who get infected and therefore reduce the community transmission and bring down the disease burden, but from an economic viewpoint, vaccines and vaccination programmes are analysed basis their cost-effectiveness as a healthcare intervention, and how they can be important drivers of economic growth. Past evidences have shown that there is a strong positive correlation between good health and economic growth.

Given that there are clear parameters of safety and efficacy of a COVID vaccine, it would be easier to select the best one for the country. Like for instance, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has recently got an approval from the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India) to conduct an adaptive phase 2 and 3 clinical trial in India. First the approach adopted by the Russian scientists is tried and tested as it is using a well-known platform of human adenovirus to develop the vaccine. The country also published the findings of the phase 1 and 2 in the leading scientific journal, The Lancet where researchers reported that the vaccine was safe and effective. The article published in the journal contains both qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the vaccine, favourably distinguishing it from other vaccines that are only just undergoing clinical trials in various countries and have no data on carcinogenicity or the effects on fertility.

At present, Serum Institute of India and ICMR are jointly conducting Phase 2/3 clinical trial of the Covid-shield or Oxford vaccine at 15 different centres across the country.

Sputnik V approved in Russia is 92% effective at safeguarding people from COVID-19 as per the interim trial results.

Moreover, our country needs a safe and effective vaccine in the shortest possible time and at a price that doesn’t pinch the pockets of the people. Among the vaccines available today, Sputnik V based on human adenovirus platform will be available at a cost that is less than $10 or ₹700 per dose for national and international markets as compared to other vaccines that are expensive. Hence, Sputnik V will be twice or more than two times cheaper than mRNA vaccines with possibly similar levels of efficacy.

Although, it may not be possible to know how effective and safe each vaccine is without well-designed phase 3 trials with thousands of patients, but the above-mentioned criteria can be the guideline to select a vaccine. Especially for a country like India, which is expected to witness a contraction of 10.3% in GDP this fiscal year as per the latest World Economic Report released by IMFii, getting a safe and effective vaccine at the earliest would be advisable. Any further wait for the corona virus vaccine may further worsen the economy’s health. In such a scenario, the decision to fast-track the process of the development of the vaccines is right and vaccines like Sputnik V could be one of the viable options for the domestic market.

Vaccine can come from any country. The competition is not about which country will be the first one to launch the vaccine. This is a landmark moment in the history of humankind, which requires countries across the world to come together to put up the best fight against this deadly pandemic. While some may develop a successful vaccine, others may help in manufacturing the vaccine in large quantities. The urgent need of the hour is to develop the safe and effective immunity cover against COVID-19 and get the world economy on track.

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vaccine Dr. Debkishore Gupta


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