India approved two Wuhan virus vaccines over the weekend. The emergency-use approvals were given to the Oxford-Astrazeneca shot – Covishield and the Bharat Biotech vaccine – Covaxin.
Both are two-shot vaccines and both are easy to store and distribute. The vaccines have been approved and administering shots is the next step. As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it – India will be starting the largest vaccination programme in the world.
The task is to vaccinate over 1.3 billion people. However, no timeline has been announced so far but mass vaccination is expected to start soon. Reports claim it can be as early as this week.
Healthcare workers and frontline workers are set to get vaccinated first. They make up the first priority group and they will be administered the vaccine for free. The second group includes persons above the age of 50 and persons with co-morbidities.
The Wuhan virus vaccination is being called India’s most ambitious vaccination drive ever. Mock drills have already been held in 125 districts and across all states with at least 96,000 vaccinators trained.
Cold chain infrastructure has been upgraded. India has secured enough shots to vaccinate its priority group. Those eligible for the vaccine in the first phase will be notified through a text message. They will be informed about the health facility they need to go to for the shot. They will also be provided a date and time.
India has kept the vaccination voluntary, however, that’s not the government’s biggest challenge since as with most things in India, politics is the biggest hurdle.
Despite all the checks, India has not been able to immunise itself from vaccine politics. India’s vaccination programme has come under criticism. Most of it has been directed towards the approval of Covaxin – the home-grown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR).
Critics say it has not been vetted properly and was approved prematurely.
The director of India’s premier medical institute AIIMS suggested that Covaxin be kept as a backup vaccine. India’s opposition leaders have questioned the lack of efficacy data for Covaxin. They also raised questions around the safety of the shot as some called it a “BJP vaccine” tagging it to the ruling party at the Centre in India.
As for the questions about the efficacy & trail data, the managing director of Bharat Biotech Krishna Ella opened Pandora’s box. He named a vaccine company and said that it was giving paracetamol to its volunteers suppressing adverse reactions.
He also said that while most vaccine makers have data of around 1,000 volunteers. Bharat Biotech is the only company with data of 25,000 people and that the company has carried out “200 per cent honest clinical trials”.
He said that most vaccines will not be effective in the second year. None of the vaccine makers have said if their shots will be effective in case of transmission of the virus. WION has not been able to independently verify any of it.
These are desperate times call for desperate measures. Vaccine makers want to sell their shots, politicians want to play politics over vaccines and governments want to roll out vaccines as soon as possible. Accusations and mudslinging don’t help anyone, avoiding transparency however is even worse.
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