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India approves Covid vaccine developed in Texas

Starting in India, the developers are pushing for worldwide deployment of the vaccine – the recipe for which they are giving away without regard for royalty payments.

HOUSTON (CN) — India’s government Tuesday approved emergency use of a Covid-19 vaccine the Texas doctors who developed it say is ideal for people in poor countries because it can be produced cheaply and scaled up quickly for production across the globe.

Drs. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez, co-directors of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital and deans of Baylor College of Medicine’s National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, announced Tuesday the Drugs Controller General of India has granted emergency use authorization for Corbevax, a protein sub-unit vaccine.

The vaccine is the result of 10 years of research on coronavirus vaccine prototypes by a team of scientists led by Hotez and Bottazzi.

While the first Covid-19 vaccines approved in the United States, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, use engineered messenger RNA, which instruct cells how to make the spike protein on the surface of the Covid-19 virus, Corbevax is produced via a simpler process akin to the production method for the Hepatitis B vaccine.

As a protein sub-unit vaccine, Corbevax contains harmless Covid spike proteins that trigger recipients’ immune systems to create antibodies and protective white blood cells.

Baylor College of Medicine licensed the vaccine to the Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E. Limited, which ran clinical trials on more than 3,000 subjects that showed Corbevax is safe and effective against the “Ancestral-Wuhan strain” and the highly contagious delta variant, which originated in India, the developers said in a statement Tuesday.

The government of India, where 42% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has reportedly pledged to buy 500 million doses of Corbevax and has approved it for people 18 and older.

And the developers, whose work was funded by private donors, are pushing for worldwide deployment of the unpatented vaccine – the recipe for which they are giving away without regard for royalty payments – especially in Africa, where just 13% of the population has received at least one jab of Covid vaccine.

Health officials say the slow uptake in Africa provided fertile ground for mutations and paved the way for the omicron variant, which is sending case counts spiraling around the world following its discovery in late November by scientists in South Africa.

The developers hope to soon make the vaccine available in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Botswana, Hotez told Houston's NPR affiliate.

Bottazzi said Corbevax “will fill the access gap created by the more expensive, newer vaccine technologies” that are “still not able to be quickly scaled for global production.”

Hotez, who is known for his colorful bowties, has spent the last two years giving dozens of interviews to news outlets during his time away from the lab, pressing the need for universal inoculation against Covid-19.

He said global vaccination with Corbevax would inhibit the emergence of new variants. “We have previously missed that opportunity for the alpha and delta variant. Now is our chance to prevent a new global wave from what might follow,” he added.

But any hopes Corbevax will help the world achieve herd immunity are a long way off – 4.52 billion people, only around 60% of the global population, have received a dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the New York Times.

The respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus has killed more than 5.4 million people worldwide, as reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Follow @cam_langford
Categories / Health, International, Science

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