The stage is set for the vaccine rollout in Indian including Jammu and Kashmir. Last week, the Drugs Controller General of India formally approved the coronavirus vaccines developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech.
The vaccines have to be administered in two doses with the second dose to be given 28 days after the first dose. The maximum effectiveness of the vaccine was observed two weeks after the second dose.
The approval for the vaccine comes at a time when there is growing urgency as a new strain of the covid-19 threatens to make the pandemic harder to control.
Providentially also, the approved vaccine can be transported and handled at normal and standard refrigerated condition of 2 to 8 degree Celsius and are unlike the Pfizer jab that has to be kept at minus 70 degree Celsius. This means the vaccines can be administered in the existing healthcare system and distributed using existing logistics.
While Covishield has been found to be 70.42 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 infection, there are question marks over Biotech’s Covaxin.
Bharat Biotech’s candidate uses a tried-and-tested technique for making vaccines: an inactivated Sars-Cov-2 virion is used to teach the recipient’s immune system how to combat a live pathogen. Early-stage trials showed the vaccine did not cause any serious side effects and, as most inactivated virus vaccines today are, was safe and triggered “a robust immune response”.
The authorities have however indicated that Covaxin will be used only if there is a scarcity and if the new variant of the virus takes hold. There is a need for transparency as people who receive it have the right to know how effective and safe it is.
The leading vaccine candidates including Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca made public results of the vaccine’s abilities in their own populations before these were given a go-ahead by the respective regulators. The Bharat Biotech, which is conducting such a phase-3 trial in India, is yet to furnish similar or partial data. While the company and central regulatory need to clear the opacity, the J&K government must be prepared for effective rollout. The inter-sectoral convergence between the frontline workers of various departments—health, social welfare, school education, rural development, and others—is a must for the successful implementation of the vaccination plan. There is also a need to curb misinformation and rumours. The government must put in place an effective mechanism.