Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Why SAFE vaccines? Because they do go wrong sometimes.

Jamshedpur: Russia President Vladimir Putin’s claim of having made it first to the post is being seen with suspicion and doubt by the Western medical fraternity.

Russia has been accused of trying to rush through the elaborate process of vaccine development.

US doctors point out that Russia has not even completed Phase III trials and without Phase III trials, any vaccine’s safety could not be vouched.

While it is true that there is a race between US, Russia, China and other countries to develop a vaccine first, almost all countries have speeded up the development process.

Approvals that normally take some time, have been hustled in almost all countries.

And this is understandable. Because Coronavirus has put the world to the brinks and all governments want the virus to be controlled.

Even in US, President Trump is keen to have a vaccine before US elections on November 3 next.

However, the US scientists describe this timeline as impossible and say that a vaccine cannot come before 2021 January.

So the charges of Russia having hustled things can be seen as a sign of US distaste in accepting Russian achievements.

However, Russian scientific and technological achievements have been prodigious.

Do not forget that the first virus was found out by a Russian scientist. Periodic table and first satellite are credited to Russians. Ak-47 too.

You cannot be so dismissive of Russian claims of a scientific achievement.

However, it is not about choosing between a Ak-47 and a US drone.

Phase III trials are required because a vaccine needs to be safe beyond doubts.

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Vaccines do go wrong sometimes and they may cause more harm than good.

In 2013, Merck & Company had to recall one HPV vaccine. There were concerns that a few vials might have had glass particles due to breakage.

In 1998, the FDA approved RotaShield vaccine for preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis was recalled and withdrawn from the markets as it caused intussusception in some healthy infants younger than 12 months.

In 1976, it was found that Swine Flu vaccine caused a small increased risk of a serious neurological disorder Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

And the most famous of all is the Cutter Incident in 1955 in which some batches of polio vaccine contained live polio virus, despite having passed safety testing. More than 250 polio cases were possibly caused by vaccines produced by one company – Cutter Laboratories. The incident left many paralysed for life.

So there is a reason why vaccines need to be absolutely safe.

Any vaccine for Corona virus is likely to be taken by millions of people.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already said that more than 1 billion vaccine orders have been placed by more than 20 countries.

Any safety lapse would be disastrous for billions of people.

Therefore, it is good to have a debate over safety of vaccines, be it from US or USSR.

Trump too wants a quick vaccine, to help him in elections.

In India too, everyone wants a vaccine fast.

However, Indian government would need to be careful about safety of any vaccine that is brought in the country, or manufactured in the country.

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We need to be doubly cautious.

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