End-users will have to wait longer to get their hands on SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for pets

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The Central government is still working on issuing the necessary approvals to introduce the vaccine in the Indian market.

The Central government is still working on issuing the necessary approvals to introduce the vaccine in the Indian market.

End-users will have to wait a bit longer to get their hands on the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for their pets with the Central government still working on issuing the necessary approvals to introduce the vaccine in the Indian market.

Globally India is the third to produce SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for animals. Besides use in pets (cats/dogs) and zoo animals in India, the vaccine had export potential, said Yash Pal, Director, ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines.

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar earlier this month launched the animal vaccine and other diagnostic kits developed by the ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines.

The Ancovax Vaccine is an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 Delta (COVID-19) vaccine for animals. The immunity induced by Ancovax neutralises both Delta and Omicron Variants of SARS-CoV-2. It is safe for dogs, lions, leopards, mice and rabbits.

SARS-CoV-2 infects lions/leopards/tigers/cats/dogs in order of disease severity. Currently the disease does not seem to be lethal in dogs, despite high prevalence (~40 %) of antibodies (subclinical infection).

Zoo, wild animals

Also based on the mortality of lions/leopards/tigers in India and the rest of the world, the vaccine can be used to provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 in zoo/wild animals. The vaccine technology is ready, but necessary approval would be required to make the vaccine reach the end users. “The technology would be commercialised to scale it up,’‘ said Dr. Pal. He added that as a research organisation they could only produce about 1,000 doses.

Speaking about the vaccine, Dr. Pal said that his team started working on the vaccine in the beginning of the first wave of COVID-19 in India because immediately after the emergence of the pandemic in humans, there were reports of COVID-19 like illness in cats in the U.S. and Europe.

He added that getting regulatory approvals (institute ethics committee, biosafety committee, animal ethics committee etc) took over a year to start the work. By the time regulatory approvals came, the second wave of COVID-19 in humans was in progress.

Death of lions

“During the second wave Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) which was identical to human SARS-CoV-2, was shown to be associated with the death of lions in Chennai zoo. Therefore it was decided to use the Delta variant to prepare the vaccine. Isolating the virus, its characterisation and vaccine preparation took about two to three months whereas animal experiments took about additional six months,’‘ explained Dr. Navee Kumar, principal scientist (team leader).

Meanwhile, the Centre has also launched a diagnostic kit — CAN-CoV-2 ELISA — which is a sensitive and specific nucleocapsid protein based indirect ELISA Kit for antibody detection against SARS-CoV-2 in canines. “There are no laboratory animals required for the preparation of the antigens. The kit is made in India and a patent has been filed for the same. No other comparable kits for detection of antibodies in canines are available in the market,’‘ said the Central government.

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