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India Fights Back with a Slew of Measures; Conducts a Large Vaccination Program

April 30 2021
To combat the COVID-19 pandemic, India has started one of the world’s largest vaccination programs. The Government of India has ensured a countrywide reach of the vaccination program, setting up a total of 61,347 sites for the purpose. According to government statistics, 12.3 crore Dose 1 vaccinations and 2.5 crore Dose 2 vaccinations have been administered.
Currently, registered applicants are given one of two vaccine variants – either Covishield (90.7%) or Covaxin (9.3%). India has been trying to ramp up the pace of vaccinations to shield the nation from the Coronavirus. Without the imposition of lockdowns, it is a near-impossible to stop the spread of the virus. Another way to stop the spread is vaccination.
Following are the three major medical factors that help combat the pandemic: one, the Sputnik V vaccine; second, antiviral drug Molnupiravir, and Zydus Cadila’s phase 3 clinical trials of its own developed COVID-19 vaccine.

Sputnik V – third vaccine to be used in India
Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (Dr Reddy’s) is expecting the first lot of Sputnik V stock from the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) by end of May 2021. In September 2020, Dr Reddy’s and RDIF partnered to conduct clinical trials of Sputnik V and to obtain rights for the former to distribute the first 100M doses, later increased to 125M doses. Sputnik V was developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. It will be the third vaccine used in India against the coronavirus, after Covishield and Covaxin. It gives around 92% protection against COVID-19, per late-stage trial results published in The Lancet.
Sputnik V uses a cold-type virus, engineered to be harmless, as a carrier to deliver a small fragment of the coronavirus to the human body. It safely exposes the body to a part of the virus’s genetic code, thus allowing the body to recognize the threat and learn to fight it off, without risk of falling ill. After being vaccinated, the body produces antibodies especially tailored to fight the coronavirus. The human immune system is thus primed to fight the coronavirus when it encounters it for real. One of the major advantages of Sputnik V is that it can be stored at 2–8° Celsius, which makes it easy to transport and store.
Molnupiravir – drug that helps treat COVID-19 patients
Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck) entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Hetero Labs, and Sun Pharmaceutical Industries to manufacture and distribute the drug Molnupiravir. This is an investigational oral antiviral drug being studied in a phase 3 trial to treat non-hospitalized COVID-19-infected patients. Per the agreement, these companies are permitted to manufacture, market, and distribute the drug in India and also in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries. Molnupiravir is an investigational potent ribonucleotide analog that inhibits the replication of multiple RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. It has been shown to be active in several models of SARS-CoV-2, including for prophylaxis, treatment and prevention of transmission, as well as SARS-CoV-1, and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Merck will also donate more than $5M worth of oxygen-production equipment, masks, hand–sanitizers, and financial aid to support India in its fight against the pandemic.
Zydus Cadila to launch Virafin injection soon; also conducts phase 3 trials of ZyCoV-D
Zydus Cadila announced that its drug, Virafin, received restricted, emergency-use approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to treat adult COVID-positive patients presenting moderate symptoms. Antiviral drug Virafin was earlier used to help treat Hepatitis C before it was repurposed for COVID-19. It is administered as an injection. In clinical trials, phase 2 was conducted with 40 patients who presented moderate COVID-19 symptoms; phase 3 was conducted with 250 patients. According Zydus Cadila, 91.15% of the COVID-positive patients in the phase 3 trial recovered in just seven days after receiving the first dose.
Zydus Cadila is also conducting phase 3 clinical trials of its DNA-based vaccine candidate, ZyCoV-D. The company has recruited 28,000 people to have a broader perspective, and has recruited people aged 75+ and children of ages 12–18. It is confident about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The first two phases have provided good data on safety and strong data on immunogenicity, comparable to most other vaccines being tried currently.

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