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Shanti please - K.I. Varaprasad Reddy of Shantha Biotechnics

Scientists under pressure for vaccine

Shantha Biotechnics founder also warns of hoarding, black-marketing

There is no publication of data on clinical trials in scientific journals and its review. “All we know is coming is just coming through news reports,” said K.I. Varaprasad Reddy, Founder of vaccine maker Shantha Biotechnics,  

HYDERABAD, Dec 9 (BNC Network) – Lamenting that the scientists are under pressure to come out with a COVID vaccine, a biotech company founder blasted the ICMR and politicians for setting the targets of August for the protective shield.

Such behaviour was “great disservice to the people,” said K.I. Varaprasad Reddy, Founder of vaccine maker Shantha Biotechnics, and pointed out that “we are in a confusing time with no answers to several factors.”

“Only time will answer the questions. We are operating in an emergency mode,” he said and asked: “But will safety be the first casualty in these confusing times?”. 

Addessing the TiE Global Summit 2020, Reddy said: “Today we are rushing our scientists, the development may have picked up the pace but there is no vigorous scientific evaluation,” Reddy said. The regulatory system is missing. We are fast-forwarding phase trails to phase trails. Regulatory people should look into that, he opined.

India would need a humongous number of three billion vaccine dosages considering the need for two doses to each of the 1.25 billion and factoring for a minimum 15% wastage.

In this kind of situation, he cautioned against another kind of emergency such as hoarding, black marketing and even counterfeit. Can the 5-6 companies come up with 3 billion doses in a year’s time, is another unanswered question to be answered, he said.

Reddy argued that there is no publication of data on clinical trials in scientific journals and its review. “All we know is coming is just coming through news reports,” he said.

There is no vigorous scientific evaluation of the vaccine, he said and explained that the 1918 Influenza vaccine came after nearly 22 years in the 1940s. Ebola vaccine took five and a half years, TB took 13 years, and chickenpox vaccine took 22 years. Perhaps, the shortest time taken to develop a vaccine was for Mumps - four years.

There are a lot of issues for which plans and blueprints, discuss and deliberate. He was of the opinion that vaccines will come only by the middle of the next year i.e. 2021. The latest will be by April but not before that. Shantha Biotechnics vaccine for Covid-19 will be out by the end of next year only, Reddy said. Vaccines are for saving lives and should not be rushed. We are cutting corners but I hope that we are not cutting lives, Reddy said.

Speaking on the alternative, he said that “we are not following our traditions.” “Traditionally, we used to wash our hands and legs before entering our home. We used to take bath and change after coming from outside. Have only home-cooked food and no outside food. Our kitchens were our pharmacies. Shaking hands is not our culture, our tradition is folding our hands in ‘Namaste’. Reddy said that we have gone away from our traditions. If we follow our traditions there is no need for a vaccine, he added.

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