Three days on, Telangana yet to roll out ‘local’ vax Covaxin

Thursday, January 21st, 2021, 07:06:00 AM IST

Telangana has still not rolled out Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, apparently due to fact that the Centre has allowed its use in clinical trial mode as its phase 3 trials were still continuing.

During the three days of vaccination so far, the state authorities administered only Covishield. Nearly 70,000 public health workers in the state have taken the jab.

While state health officials maintain they will start giving Covaxin once they receive sufficient number of doses, it is the current format prescribed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which is delaying the rollout of the local product.

Health minister Eatala Rajender during a video conference with union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on January 16 admitted that it was difficult to administer Covaxin in the format prescribed by ICMR.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCG) has authorised the restricted use of Covaxin under clinical trial mode.

Those receiving Covaxin will have to sign consent forms that assured compensation if any adverse effect was found linked to the vaccine.

Rajender also urged the central minister to provide more doses of Covishield. “We request you to send more doses of Covishield. The vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech may be used later,” he had said.

Earlier, the state government had sought additional doses from the Centre, citing the manufacturing of vaccine in Hyderabad.

However, the health authorities anticipated higher reluctance if Covaxin was also rolled out along with Covishield.

During three days, more than 25,000 targetted beneficiaries refused to take the vaccine, though only Covishield was administered.

A section of health care workers including doctors serving in leading government hospitals in Hyderabad have declined to take the vaccine. While some of them questioned the efficacy of the vaccine, others cited reports of side-effects. They informed the higher-ups that they will wait for few days for taking the jab.

The top health officials said while taking vaccine is an individual’s choice, they are trying to convince all health workers that they should take the jab for their protection. They have reassured the staff that both the vaccines are totally safe.

The officials pointed out that no case of serious/severe AEFI (adverse effect following immunisation) were reported.

On the third day on Tuesday, 51 AEFI cases were reported. Out of these three required hospitalisation and they are stable.

A 42-year-old health worker, who had taken the jab on Tuesday, died early Wednesday in Nirmal district. The officials, however, said the death seems unrelated to vaccination.

Telangana has received 3.64 lakh doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin.

Director of public health and family welfare G. Srinivasa Rao had stated before the launch of vaccine programme that as per Government of India guidelines consent will be taken from those who will be receiving Covaxin shot. Their health status will examined and scrutinised before giving the vaccine and after vaccination they will be monitored for seven days for any adverse events. Similar process will be followed after the second dose which will be given after four weeks.

“We should be proud that Covaxin has been developed indigenously and that too on the soil of Telangana. Nobody should have any worries. If necessary I will take Covaxin in coming days,” he had said.

However, the department is still undecided on rolling out Covaxin. It is likely to wait for a few days.

Meanwhile, the health experts feel that people should have no apprehensions about both the vaccines as they were cleared by the drug regulator after it found them totally safe.

“Both vaccines are equally effective. There should not be any doubts in the minds of people,” eminent breast cancer surgeon Dr P. Raghu Ram told IANS

“AIIMS director who is the main force leading the drive against the pandemic and all the staff in AIIMS have taken Covaxin. This speaks volumes,” added Dr Raghu Ram, who is the director of KIMS-Ushalakshmi Centre for Breast Diseases and founder-CEO of Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation.

Dr Riyaz M. Khan, CEO, Continental Hospitals believed that misinformation may be creating reluctance among some people.

“Both the vaccines have gone through a robust testing programme and these are stable technologies. The inactivated technology used for Covaxin is the same technology used for almost all other vaccines. Covishield is based on vector-based technology. These technologies have gone through trials. To say that one is safe over the other may not be safe comparison,” he said.

Dr Khan said that technologies and development of vaccines is a complex process which a common person cannot understand. He pointed out that there are people who are against vaccination itself and even the polio vaccination had faced opposition.

“It’s natural tendency to oppose anything which is new. Even the scientific opinion always remains divided when new technology comes in because there is no one definite way of finding a solution,” he added.

Dr Khan pointed out that vaccine development normally takes at least couple of years and because of pandemic everything was fast-tracked. “All the Covid vaccines being administered in the world today have been approved for emergency use and none of them has complete data,” he said.

———IANS