Tue. Jun 15th, 2021

ETIPWS: Respiratory viruses could be possible culprits for future pandemics, say expertsNew Delhi: Dr. Priya Abraham, the director of National Institute of Virology (NIV) said respiratory viruses are going to be the culprits for future pandemics as they have the capacity to spread quickly, across the vast population.

Speaking at India Pharmaworld Summit’s panel discussion on Indian gearing for vaccination, Dr. Priya and other panellists including Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India and Dr. Sanjay Singh – CEO, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals shared their advice and approach towards managing future pandemics.

According to Prof Reddy, this has to be looked at from three levels: first- pandemic response, second-pandemic preparedness and third-pandemic prevention.

“We need to improve all our potential components of the response, as stated, from the laboratory capacity to the primary care services, where you can actually pick up people who are having illness, cough or breathlessness very early on for testing or contact tracing. All of that is going to be important, both urban and rural primary health care, as well as other hospital facilities as needed. The full multi-system response has to be kept ready and activated,” he said.

Speaking on pandemic preparedness, he urged the need for good surveillance systems, eco-surveillance. “We know that spillover from animal species to human species is very likely for multiple viruses, from wildlife to veterinary animals to human beings..We need surveillance systems, which actually monitors what is happening to microbes in the wildlife and forestry in veterinary populations with the free-living or capital grab veterinary populations. And then we get early alerts of possible species spillover and we prepare ourselves for it, both through public health measures and through vaccine preparation.

For pandemic prevention, the public health expert highlighted the need to change the way humans interact with the environment. “We ought to stop deforestation, stop extensive investment in animal breeding for food and having exotic wild animals being brought to wet markets for feeding practices. If we change the manner in which we interact with our environment we are less likely to have this spillover from one species to another species.”

The panelists also highlighted some challenges that need to be addressed to better prepare ourselves for any upcoming pandemics.

Dr. Priya also stressed on the importance of trained manpower, a major challenges in the current pandemic, “You can get contract workers but by the time you train them, the contract is over, I really think that has been the biggest challenge for us to get people who can run with the demand on the job.. the government and private institutions should think about having that team with us, so we can kick into action,” she said.

Speaking on vaccine development, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Sanjay Singh noted, “Today, 99.9% of things which are required for mRNA vaccines have to be imported from outside. Somehow as an industry, government and institutions, we should look to reduce the dependency on these requirements we have to produce locally.”

Pune-based Gennova’s vaccine candidate HGCO19, if successful, will be India’s first indigenously developed mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.

Sanjay concluded by saying that vigorous communication is very important between stakeholders and an expert panel has to be developed which can communicate and educate people on the scientific developments in the right way.

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