India’s drugs regulator had recently approved Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for restricted emergency use. The vaccination drive is all set to begin across the country to initially inoculate three crore healthcare and frontline workers. But health experts and critics raise several concerns and questions over the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine in India. So, is the coronavirus vaccine safe? Let’s uncover the truth behind the coronavirus vaccine in India.
What are the Approved Coronavirus Vaccines in India?
Currently (As of 06-01-2021), India has approved two vaccines- Covishield vaccine developed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India and the Covaxin vaccine that is developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca, and produced in India by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (IMCR). On 03-01-2021, the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) Dr. VG Somani granted the emergency use authorization to Covishield and Covaxin based on the recommendation of the Subject Expert Committee (SEC).
According to the suggestions made by the National Expert Group on vaccine Administration for COVID-19, the central government will directly procure the vaccine supplies and distribute them throughout the nation.
Concerns Regarding the Coronavirus Vaccine in India:
One of the major concerns that various health experts have expressed regarding the coronavirus vaccine in India is the absence of Phase 3 trial data on Covaxin. The only phase two clinical trials have shown efficacy and phase three trials are still ongoing. The SEC granted accelerated approval and restricted emergency usage to these vaccines considering the existing pandemic situation, high mortality, and lack of definitive treatment. Although the health ministry had earlier stated that the COVID-19 vaccination will be voluntary, health experts and critics have cautioned that giving premature clearance to the vaccine could risk the lives and fuel vaccine hesitancy in India.
When can we Receive the Coronavirus Vaccine in India?
According to the Union Health Ministry, the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in India will most likely be administered on January 13. This would be the Covishield vaccine which has been developed by the University of Oxford and produced locally by the Serum Institute of India.
How Long will the Vaccine be Effective?
The coronavirus was only just discovered at the end of 2019 and with the speed at which the vaccines were approved, there is no clear information on how long this vaccine will be effective. It is quite certain that the vaccines have long-lasting protection but the actual length of time is unknown. This is not just the case for Covishield and Covaxin vaccines but also for other vaccines including Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines.
How Effective will this Vaccine be in the General Population?
Technically, no vaccine is perfect and it takes time to provide protection. Although you get strong protection against COVID-19 after receiving the vaccination, there is still a chance that you could get infected with the virus. Because even after you get these vaccines, it may take several weeks for your body to start building immunity against the virus. So, realistically speaking, you could get sick with the virus, just before or even just after getting the vaccination.
Should the People who had Already been Affected by COVID-19 be Vaccinated?
Health experts advise that those who have already had COVID-19 still get the vaccine. Because natural infection with coronavirus only gives you some degree of immunity, and it doesn’t give you full protection. The COVID-19 vaccines are specifically designed to neutralize the virus and its ability to infect. So, even if had been infected with the virus before, getting vaccinated gives you an extra layer of protection against the virus.
To conclude, although many of us are believing that vaccines are the end of COVID-19 and life will be back or normal after vaccination, this is not entirely the case. As mentioned, vaccines are not 100% fail-proof, so, we need a greater community effort to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic.