The Drug Regulator Council of India recently gave the green light to Covaxin and Covishield for emergency vaccination. While the former has been locally made by the Indian pharmaceutical giant Bharat Biotech, the latter is an Indian version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK. Even though the majority of Indians are still skeptical about whether they should get vaccinated or not, India being the powerhouse of the world in terms of vaccine production and distribution does restore our faith in the world’s largest inoculation drive to fight COVID-19. First, let’s try and understand the working principle of these two vaccines.
Covaxin is made up of killed coronavirus strain that was isolated by the Indian Institute of Virology, Pune. Since it uses an inactivated coronavirus strain, the vaccine is safe to use as it stimulates the immune system of your body to produce an army of antibodies to fight the coronavirus infection. The vaccine can be stored at a temperature of 2-8 degree Celsius and has to be administered twice nearly four weeks apart. According to the DGCI, Covaxin has been approved for administration in emergency cases, especially in the context of new mutant coronavirus strains. What’s really concerning scientists and the Indian population is the fact that there is no concrete data available to prove the efficacy of Covaxin. The concerns of the general population were raised by the All India Drug Action Network stating that the organization was baffled to understand the scientific logic behind approving the use of an incompletely studied vaccine.
To this allegation, Bharat Biotech has confidently replied that according to the Indian clinical trial laws, a drug can be approved for emergency authorization after its second phase of clinical trials for “unmet medical needs of serious and life-threatening diseases in the country.” Bharat Biotech has also promised to release the final efficacy data of the vaccine by February this year.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine named Covishield is currently being manufactured by the world’s largest drug production company, Serum Institute of India. According to the pharmaceutical giant, it’s currently producing nearly 50 million doses of the vaccine per month. Covishield is made of a modified common cold virus from chimpanzees. This adenovirus has been specifically modified to resemble the coronavirus and minimize any adverse effects in recipients.
Covishield needs to be administered in two doses nearly 12 weeks apart and can be stored at a temperature between 2-8 degree Celsius. Covishield has been surrounded by speculations regarding its dosage. 1.5 doses of the vaccine seemed to be effective in 90% of the recipients during the clinical trials. However, scientists still seem to be on the shelf regarding the half and full dose dilemma of the vaccine. This is why the efficacy data of Covishield is fairly vague.
That being said, the Serum Institute of India has clearly stated that the vaccine is highly effective and they’ve got phase-III clinical trials data from Brazil and U.S. to prove the same. Furthermore, the company added to its statement that it will conduct the bridging trial of Covishield by February and provide complete data about the vaccine.
India is currently on a drive to administer Covaxin and Covishield vaccine to nearly 1 crore health workers and 2 crore other corona warriors. Apart from them, the government has promised to vaccinate 27 crore other people based on age group prioritization. According to healthcare professionals and vaccine manufacturers, Covaxin has minor side-effects such as injection site swelling, redness, and stiffness, headache, fever, general malaise, nausea, and rashes. In certain extreme and rare cases, the vaccine may cause a generalized allergic reaction leading to difficulty in breathing, fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. Covishield too has similar side-effects as that of Covaxin.
Considering all these factors, it might sound scary to even think of getting vaccinated. But, it’s our moral duty to have faith in the brilliance of our scientists and doctors. We need to come together as a community, support our government in this world’s largest inoculation drive, stay away from baseless rumors, and get vaccinated when our chance comes. Furthermore, to boost your confidence in these Indian vaccines, you can talk to your healthcare provider and hear real-life success stories about the corona warriors getting vaccinated. It’s our turn to show coronavirus the power of togetherness and community belief.
In case you experience any of the side-effects listed above after getting vaccinated, then immediately contact your nearest healthcare provider, report the Covishield side-effect to the Serum Institute of India, and call the 24×7 toll-free helpline number – +91-1800 1200124.