WHO experts opine there could be one or more Indian variants of the SARS Cov-2 virus that escape available vaccines.
The vaccination drive is constrained primarily by vaccine supplies. Any company that is willing to sell proven vaccines to India should be welcomed in. mRNA vaccines require special cold chains and are pricier than others. India’s larger cities can afford both. If Pfizer and Moderna are willing to manage the logistics or find local partners for that, and the paperwork for individual vaccine recipients to sign off on legally binding indemnity commitments, there is no reason for GoI to stand in the way. If a few crore people opt for these vaccines, those many vaccines from the domestic output would be available for others. At the same time, the government should encourage these companies to set up shop in India and manufacture for the world.
WHO experts opine there could be one or more Indian variants of the SARS Cov-2 virus that escape available vaccines. Most vaccines target the spike protein on the coronavirus. If it undergoes significant modifications, the efficacy of the vaccine would come down. It needs to be established if the traditional, inactivated all-of-virus vaccines work against the variants better than vaccines centred on specific proteins of the virus. The deemed advantage of the new mRNA vaccines and virus vector vaccines (in which a DNA encoding the target protein is contained in a relatively harmless virus such as the adenosvirus) is their modular flexibility. Change the mRNA or DNA, to target another protein, while the rest of the vaccine remains the same. The genetic profiling of new variants and identification of target proteins would have to precede new vaccine development. GoI must get this going, in its own labs, and fund a variety of startups of qualified people to do this. Choose young people with their reputation and career at stake to lead such efforts. It is vital to develop new testing kits as well, for accurate, fast detection of the virus.
If new mutants show significant vaccine escape, the vaccinated rich world is at risk, too, for all their travel bans. It is a global priority to develop new vaccines effective against new variants. And a company that succeeds in this endeavour would be feted by the world.