CSIR Institutions CSIR-NISTADS and CSIR-NISCAIR, New Delhi jointly organized a half-day session on “A Policy Dialogue on COVID-19 Vaccine from Self-Reliance to Global Leadership: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policy Imperatives in COVID Era” recently. This event was organised to celebrate the National Science Day and to have a policy discourse from eminent personalities on the journey of indigenous development of the COVID-19 vaccine in the midst of the pandemic. It focussed on the opportunities available, the challenges faced and the policy imperatives for a way forward to become a global leader not only in the COVID-19 vaccine but also in vaccines in general.
Dr Shekhar C. Mande, Secretary, DSIR and Director General- CSIR, Dr Shailja Vaidya Gupta, Senior Adviser- Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the GoI, Delhi, Dr S K Varshney, Adviser & Head International Cooperation, DST, New Delhi, Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director, CSIR-IGIB, New Delhi, Dr Geetha Vani Rayasam, Head, SCDD, CSIR and Dr Ranjana Aggarwal, Director CSIR-NISTADS and CSIR- NISCAIR shared their views on COVID-19 vaccine, in this virtual event. The event saw active participation of academicians, young researchers, professionals and students.
CSIR-NISTADS and CSIR-NISCAIR are actively engaged in organising lecture series, seminars/meetings as well as publication and dissemination of special issue and popular articles on issues related to COVID-19 pandemic in the last one year. CSIR-NISTADS has been known for its vaccine STS policy research in the last 25 years that has brought national and international recognitions.
“After the lockdown, we planned a collective intelligence series to develop focused policy documents on the opportunities and challenges of COVID-19 for India that can strengthen the Governments’ efforts. We with our knowledge partners are hosting a series of panel discussions, and workshops to bring in professionals and eminent experts on a common platform. This will also help to bring out focused policy documents”, said Dr Ranjana, Director CSIR-NISTADS and CSIR- NISCAIR in her opening remarks.
DG- CSIR, Dr Shekhar C Mande mentioned that CSIR has actively participated in COVID-19 mitigation strategies. He shared that the CSIR lab Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad has prepared the adjuvant for the Bharat Biotech vaccine COVAXIN. “We are proud that the vaccine received by the Prime Minister had CSIR adjuvant in it”, he said.
Quoting the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, Dr. Shailja Vaidya Gupta, pointed out that Indians have the most trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. “Indian response to COVID-19 has huge learning- trust with Pvt. sector & Govt. is critical for vaccine confidence-building”, shesaid. Dr. Gupta suggested that the government should leverage this trust by building transparent systems, improving accessibility of data in the public domain & decentralization of vaccine regulatory process.
Dr Geetha Vani Rayasam addressed the role of science communication. “Partnership from the public is vital and that is going to come only by increasing the awareness and communication to them”, she mentioned. Mentioning the contributions of India, Dr. S K Varshney from DST said that after ensuring our requirements, India is supplying vaccines to the global community.“Our vaccines are easy to store. We have supplied nearly 6 million doses of vaccines as a gift to needy countries, 10 million commercial units have been supplied and in near future, we would be supplying to UN health workers and WHO workers among many others”, he added.
Dr Anurag Agrawal provided a broad overview of the COVID-19 vaccine from various angles. “A pandemic ends only in one way, people become immune. If you want a long-lasting immunity, you have to go for vaccines”, he said.
Dr Y. Madhavi, Sr. Principal Scientist-NISTADS moderated the event. Experts also responded to the queries from audiences ranging from the biology to the safety of the vaccine. Dr Paramananda Barman, CSIR-NISCAIR proposed the vote of thanks. Dr. NK Prasanna helped in coordinating the event.