New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Thursday said that it aims to launch the coronavirus vaccine being developed in partnership with Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech for public health use by August 15.

This is as per a letter written as internal communication by ICMR to Bharat Biotech asking for fast-tracking of the indigenous vaccine with an aim to launch by August 15.

"It is envisaged to launch the vaccine for public health use latest by 15th August 2020 after completion of all clinical trials. BBIL is working expeditiously to meet the target, however, the final outcome will depend on the cooperation of all clinical trial sites involved in this project," the letter by ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said.

ICMR sources have confirmed the authenticity of the letter, but say it was only meant for internal communication. Bharat Biotech has refused to comment on the letter. The date set for the launch of the vaccine is just a month and a half away.

PM Modi had recently held a high-level meeting to take stock of the indigenous vaccine efforts.

WHO scientists, on the other hand, have predicted a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could take at least 12-18 months to develop. Vaccine development for a new pathogen traditionally takes many years or even decades.

The ICMR has selected 12 institutes for clinical trial of the country's first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, an official said. ICMR has developed the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine (BBV152 COVID vaccine) partnered with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL).

"The vaccine is derived from a strain of SARS-CoV-2 isolated by ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune. ICMR and BBIL are jointly working for the pre-clinical as well as clinical development of this vaccine," an official said.

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Bhubaneswar-based Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital under the SOA Deemed to be University, has been chosen by the ICMR for undertaking human clinical trials of India's first coronavirus vaccine, an official of the institute said.

The 12 institutes have been asked by the ICMR to fast track clinical trials of the vaccine as it is being considered as one of the top priority projects which are being monitored at the topmost level of the government.

In view of the public health emergency due to COVID-19 pandemic and urgency to launch the vaccine, the selected institutes are strictly advised to fast track all approvals related to the initiation of the clinical trial and ensure that the subject enrolment is initiated during the first week of July.

Apart from IMS and SUM Hospital here, the other institutes selected for the clinical trial are located in Visakhapatnam, Rohtak, New Delhi, Patna, Belagavi (Karnataka), Nagpur, Gorakhpur, Kattankulathur (Tamil Nadu), Hyderabad, Arya Nagar, Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Goa.