Representational image
Representational image
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Recently, the human trials for one of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates hit a block after one of the participants developed an "unexplained illness". The vaccine is being developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and had recently entered Phase 3 of human testing.

While AstraZeneca remains hopeful about the vaccine being ready by the end of the year, this does raise questions about what the repercussions will be - both from a business standpoint and from a health perspective.

It must also be noted that the position of the Oxford vaccine as a forerunner had given many hope that they would soon have a way to combat the virus.

In the rush to create a viable vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, some have cut corners where possible, with some even skipping part of the trials to introduce the vaccine. Russia's Sputnik V for example has claimed to be the first ever vaccine, even without holding Phase 3 trials. Similarly, China had bypassed clinical trials to begin using an experimental coronavirus vaccine in late July. Many high-risk groups have been vaccinated using this.

And while the Oxford vaccine appears to be taking the necessary precautions, a delay can also mean that reliance on other upcoming vaccines will increase even as they rush towards the finish line. At the same time, there are financial connotations attached. To use AstraZeneca as an example, as the company announced the pause, share prices began to fall.

Of course the direct effect of a successful vaccine will be felt by those who may need it to survive the virus. As such, the delay is of concern to India, which while having a high recovery rate, also has the second highest case tally in the world.

Following the announcement, the Drug Controller General of India has instructed Pune's Serum Institute of India to pause trials. "We are reviewing the situation and pausing India trials till AstraZeneca restarts the trials," the company later announced.

One has to remember that the company has taken a massive gamble on the vaccine, investing a whopping sum of USD 200 million (Rs 1,492 crore) to scale up production of the vaccine. If the vaccine fails, the company will have to throw away all the doses that it has produced.

A third facet to be considered is the political aspect. To give an example, US President Donald Trump has indicated that a vaccine would soon be available. With the western country headed towards elections in November, this has been inferred by many to mean that a vaccine would be available before the beginning of November and as such boost the President's chances of a second term.

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Free Press Journal