September 17, 2021

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Jabs, gabs, some lags

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Uday Deb

The fight against Covid-19 shall be a landmark in history. In a way nature’s highest form of creation (or so we believe) bruised and tattered, is gallantly taking up arms pitted against the first molecules that made life—RNA/DNA. If this be a truant of nature with or without an innocent human error, probably it is testing time for humans to show their nerves and guts.

Nothing short of a miracle, that the ultimate weapon, the “vaccine” is on the shelves, close to half a billion doses considering the majors, Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca-Oxford, Sputnik, just a step away for a formal approval for uses. Considering Jan 10, ’20 as the official date declaring that such a devastating virus does exist, handing over all specifics of the viral genome. It is beyond imagination that various vaccines are ready in a time frame still a few weeks away when the globe turns around the annual International Dateline! The second fastest vaccine prior to this was measles that took four years. HIV is still halfway!

There is much science to be simplified, queries to be answered, but from an administrative point of view, the PM went round the four major centres to understand, make final even pending deals with the countries and companies, supervising the facilities. It was not without the concern for the largest, mostly poor population, that to be provided, that deals and partnerships should be on paper, or under draft. Concessions, tie-ups, even sharing of technology, on-going R&D is the only synergistic for science and large populations to keep the balance -sheets in green!

Whereas we benefit with strict caution, the benefits that come to us, are not without India being the largest population, respecting science and life ready after a Phase II, III trials That is the final stamp of open-label use.

It is for this reason that Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Sputnik -V got approval from the FDA for “emergency” use. That route was taken because emergency approvals are temporary, require less data than required for regular approvals, and can be approved at lesser standards. What the FDA chief said was that any vaccine that shows 50% efficacy compared to a placebo or saline, can be considered!

The government with a long-term view, regarding efficacy, situations of short supply as understanding chose the Astra-Zeneca-Oxford and Serum Institute, Sputnik V with Dr. Reddy’s, Labs. A wise inclusion of a solo India  Zydus Pharma under its Chairman Deepak Patel(the Indian pharma is unbeatable in production at short notice, prices are affordable, and are quick learners of the trade), is a step towards self-reliance.

A simple discussion of the various mechanisms of the world’s top three, including the Zydus Cadila, projected to open shop by March 2021, presently undergoing Phase II Trials, need to be in the minds of the prime movers of this unprecedented trial is the literate, semi-literate man. Not to bog you down with technicalities, such discussions as to the mode of action efficacy, side-effects, pricing, subjective responses, as the program rolls over

The Astra-Zeneca-oxford-Serurm Institute, is a vaccine derived from the adeno virus that causes cold in  Chimpanzees, and treated such that it has no ability to replicate. Its protein shell when injected into human cells instructs the cell to produce proteins that nullify the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins—-the first slash of the dagger that threatens human life!

There have been reactions reported in few cases. The explanation presently entertained is that when given in two equal doses, 3 weeks apart, the efficacy is 68%, and increased reactions. However, if the first dose is minimized, and adjusted in the second dose, the efficacy is 90%. Naturally, chimpanzee cells have a certain evolutionary animosity to the human cells if exposed in a bulk! We have a major contract with his group, pending formal agency clearance from both countries.

The success of 95% that the Pfizer vaccine claims, and has approval by FDA, early this week! It is based on the injection of mRNA (if our remember RNA, that’s enough), that transfers a genetic protein to the human cells, that activate the body immune system to fight off the offensive proteins of the coronavirus. It has been used in symptomatic cases, unlike the Astra-Oxford use that was used in normal population. The Pfizer vaccine requires a strict cold chain of -70 degrees Celsius. Most histopathology labs in India have liquid nitrogen storge for research tissue, which maintains the required temperature. The USP is that t has shown efficacy n symptomatic cases. The AstraZeneca-Oxford, Serum vaccine, tried in asymptomatic patients, may apply to a larger group for prophylaxis. A major claim is that the patient is Covid-free, and can’t spread it further. The present plan is to inoculate 30% to 40% o the population, to break the chain of transmission.

Sputnik V from Russia, with a tie-up with Dr Reddys, has an imediate convenience of viability between, + 2 to +8 degrees Celsius. It was in fact the first to be registered by the FDA. The mode of action is somewhat different. It uses the outer shell of an adenovirus, which is genetically coded to carry the deadly ‘S’ protein, in a non-viable cell (vector).

A second dose is given 3 weeks apart. The cell identification of a foreign protein, uses a pro-body immunity, to eliminate the coronavirus.

The vaccines coming from superpowers, gives the notion that the same war strategies of camouflaging, surreptitious entry of spies, could be at the background of such brilliant biological strategies.

Finally, it is important that the data should be well scrutinized  transparent and available for audit at the drop  of a “BAT”, presumably the source it came from. While doing a good, it may not be forgotten, that the patient is also undergoing a certain risk.

Again, no corporate bias, I like Pfizer’s caption—” Science for the world’s well- being”. Others may also similar captions but somehow this is what comes to the mind!

Quite rightly, the first doses should go to the frontline, highly exposed medical personal, paramedics, patient handlers.

The supplies are supposed to pick up by the first week of Jan ‘21 after approvals.

There shall be an initial rush, there shall be adverse reactions, be usual types, and unexpected ones, considering genetic materials being used, though by no means replicable.

As mentioned earlier, Nature threw the gauntlet.

A brave new race is to show its natural and evolved capabilities.

Depends on how brilliant we are, how competitive at data handling and how human we are in terms of concern for those in need of help!

“There is no vaccine against stupidity”            Einstein

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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