India's leading vaccine scientist, Professor Gagandeep Kang, sheds light on the suitability of the various COVID-19 vaccines under production, saying that the 90 percent effective Pfizer vaccine is very unlikely to be a solution for India." This is because in order to store and transport this vaccine at -700 or -800 Celsius temperatures, India simply does not have the cold storage ability. There is also a very short shelf life for the Pfizer vaccine, often as little as 24-48 hours. Speaking about the Moderna vaccine, which is said to be 94.5 percent effective and needs only storage at -200 Celsius and has a shelf life of up to 30 days, Kang says it is unaffordable for India at its current price of $37.50 a dose. We can't afford to pay $37.50 per dose. India has never paid more than $3 for any vaccine per dose,' she said. Kang did add, however, that when a market such as India comes calling, if we buy a substantial amount, the price will fall."
Kang, who played a crucial role in the development of India's indigenous rotavirus vaccine as well as in the development of cholera and typhoid vaccines, said in an almost 50-minute interview with Karan Thapar that it is likely that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine might be the right one or the best one for India. This vaccine only needs to be stored in a range of temperatures between -20 and -80 Celsius, which can be supplied by an ordinary refrigerator. A freezer is not needed. Professor Kang, a fellow of the Royal Society of Britain, said that India should "adapt" its vaccination programme "to what can be done, in which locations and for which individuals." In other words, to control its diversity, the nation would need a number of unique responses, including a variety of different vaccines.
Kang, however, expressed concern about the manner in which the government might classify individuals who fall into the four vaccine priority groups already established. These classes are first, healthcare workers, second, police and security forces, third, people over 50 years of age and, fourth, co-morbidities of people under 50 years of age. "Kang asked the question, "How well are we going to do in identifying individuals and then sequencing them? Kang pointed out that various categories of healthcare professionals exist, some of whom come into direct contact with patients with COVID-19 and others who provide vital support services. Are we going to discriminate amongst them? If that's so, on what basis? Kang also claimed that it is possible to distinguish doctors and nurses between those working in government hospitals and those working in private hospitals. Are they going to be fairly treated? These are, she says, the kind of problems that still need addressing.
Kang, who is a professor at the Wellcome Trust Research Laboratory at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, said that "exciting evidence that vaccines work and work better than we thought" is the overall picture of vaccine production in response to COVID-19. Kang also spoke about the broad coronavirus image of post-Diwali facing the country as winter sets-in. She said it is perfectly clear that India's first wave is declining and decreasing, but whether or not there will be second or subsequent waves depends very much on people's actions. While the dry cold weather could lead to a second wave and failure to wear masks and maintain social distance, she also felt that these would not be as extreme as the second and third waves encountered in Europe and the US.