ICMR should fast track coronavirus vaccine, not for 15 August but for science

There is absolutely no doubt that the world needs a vaccine for the novel coronavirus or SARS-nCOV-2 fast and the country that acquires one first will not only secure health and economic benefits, but gain a geopolitical window of opportunity that it can exploit. For strategic reasons, therefore, I have previously argued that “India must accelerate efforts to develop an indigenous vaccine” and that “We should be prepared to manufacture sufficient doses for our own population and export large volumes to the rest of the world.”

To the extent that Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) controversial letter to certain hospitals to “launch a vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials” indicates that the Narendra Modi government is serious about running the vaccine race, it is a good sign. However, as Warren Buffett once said, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” In fact, ICMR’s hope, demand or injunction — whatever it was — is logically impossible to satisfy: all clinical trials simply cannot be completed by 15 August. It seems to have acknowledged this in its subsequent clarification.