West Bengal will lose the chance to conduct Phase II clinical trial of Russian COVID-19 vaccine candidate Sputnik V because of the delay in grant of approval by the state government, a top official of an organisation involved in facilitating the exercise said on Sunday. The trials were proposed to start at the state-run College of Medicine and Sagore Dutta Hospital (CMSDH) in North 24 Parganas district adjoining Kolkata later this week along with six other centres in different parts of the country.
"We will not be able to hold the Phase II trials of Sputnik-V vaccine at the CMSDH because of the slow approach of the state health department in giving the approval. We had applied for the approval on November 4 and there is no response yet. It's too late now. "Even if the approval is given today, holding the trials will not be feasible," the head of business development at the site management organisation CliniMed LifeSciences, Snehendu Koner, told PTI.
He said while the initial feasibility process at CMSDH started along with the other centres where the trials are to take place, the approval could not be obtained in time. After securing the health department's approval, the consent of the hospital's Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC) is also required before starting the trials, Koner said.
The IECs of the rest six institutions have already given the go ahead for the trials. When contacted, a senior official of the state health department, who was unwilling to be named, said, "This is an internal matter of our department. However, I believe that several official holidays on account of festivals could have delayed the approval process. I cannot talk much about it. We will look into it." The site management organisation had conducted necessary surveys to check infrastructure and cold storage facilities at the Sagore Dutta Hospital before approaching the state health department for approval to conduct the trials.
"Such approvals from the state health department are not required to conduct trials for any vaccines or drugs. But surprisingly, we were asked to seek approval this time which delayed the process and eventually we are losing it," he said. Clinical trials of Sputnik V will be conducted by pharma major Dr Reddy's Laboratories in coordination with Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).
The RDIF will be supplying 100 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine to Dr Reddy's Lab. Koner said Phase III of the trial of the vaccine candidate will begin in India in January and the state health department and the CMSDH will be urged to expedite the approval process.
The site management organisation facilitates clinical trials by national and global pharmaceutical companies engaged in drug and vaccine development. Citing interim trial results, Russia's health ministry claimed earlier this month that Sputnik V vaccine had shown 92 per cent efficacy in preventing COVID-19.
The announcement had followed results unveiled earlier by vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech, who said their vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective at preventing the coronavirus disease. The calculation was based on 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo, the RDIF had said.