Covid-19 vaccine: Apprehensions and responsibilities
Dr. Umer Farooq
The vaccination drive against COVID-19 was kick started in the whole country on 16th January 2021. The first phase was inaugurated digitally by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. It is the biggest vaccination program in the world in terms of population that needs to be vaccinated.
In the first phase around 3 crore of India’s front-line workers are targeted for vaccination. This includes health workers, safai karmacharis, the Army and disaster management volunteers. As per the targets fixed by the government, the first phase of the vaccination should be completed within a few months.
The first phase of the vaccination drive is free. This covers for the first prioritised beneficiaries. The vaccine is administered in two doses, each of which will have to take place 28 days apart. On the first day, 2.07 lakh people got vaccinated as against 3 lakh target vaccinations. Till date of writing this piece, over 10 lakh people have been vaccinated all over India.
The data from various states showed that vaccination on the first day varied from 16% in Tamil Nadu to 72% in Kerala. In J&K, more than 6800 doses of vaccines have been administered so far.
The failure to achieve the vaccination target had been attributed partly to the failure of the online application Co WIN which is used for tracking vaccinations but largely to the wait and watch approach of frontline workers. This uncertainty roots from fear of adverse reactions potentially caused by the new vaccines and lack of clarity regarding the safety of these vaccines.
Despite the fact that government and both the vaccine manufacturing companies, Bharat Biotech, manufacturers of Covaxin and Serum Institute of India that manufactures the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Covishield, had issued statements and factsheets regarding the use and safety of the vaccines.
Both the companies have issued advisories regarding usage of the vaccines and have given a list of potential allergic and adverse events following vaccination.
The most common adverse reactions which can be expected following vaccine shot are, injection site pain, swelling, redness and itching, malaise, nausea and vomiting, joint or muscle pain, lump at injection site, fever, chills, flu like symptoms, enlarged lymph nodes and excessive sweating. Both vaccines have almost similar adverse reactions.
In case of severe reactions hospitalisation may be needed.
Both the vaccine manufacturers have also issued fact sheets that talk about those who should not take these vaccines these include people who have severe reactions to any ingredient of these vaccines.
Covaxin manufactures have further advised to exclude from giving there vaccine to people who have fever, blood disorders or take blood thinners, are immune-compromised or are on medication that affects the immune system, are pregnant or breast feeding or any other serious health related issues as determined by the vaccinator, those who have taken any other COVID vaccine. It has also been advised by these companies that those who had a severe reaction after the first dose should avoid taking the second shot.
After the first day of vaccination 477 allergic reactions were reported and none needed any hospitalization which is an encouraging sign regarding the safety of these vaccines.
Most controversy regarding the safety of vaccine is around the Covaxin, manufactured by Indigenous vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech. The vaccine had only passed through first two stages of testing after which this vaccination drive has been approved by the government as phase 3 clinical trials for this vaccine.
Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan had explained that Covaxin recipients will be followed up for a period of three months because the clinical efficacy of this vaccine is yet to be proved. Further, it will be important that all the current precautions against COVID19 must be taken during this period. He further said that those recipients who suffer from severe allergic reactions due to this vaccine will be compensated by the manufacturer.
On the other hand Covishield vaccine manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India has been better received. Its clinical efficacy in some studies done in UK has been shown to be about 90% after the second dose but it needs to be further evaluated as data collected is not sufficient.
The importance of the vaccination drive cannot be put to back burner. The spread of Covid 19 had been so rapid that the whole world had been surprised. The fear of contacting the disease had forced the people to remain indoors. However, scientists took up the challenge so as to save the humanity from any major disaster.
Guidelines were being issued for the safety measures and subsequently revised as the origin, spread and its disastrous consequences were not being fully captured and only speculations were there and that was the cause of the fear among the general masses all over the world.
Now scientists have come out with a number of vaccines and are being used world over. In the clinical trials the efficacy of these vaccines has been proved up to 90 percent which can be considered a huge success rate.
In order to save the human life from COVID-19 disease, the vaccination drive had to be carried out and the whole population had to be made aware of the positive points of these vaccines as 90 percent success rate is a chance worth to take.
It is not only the governments but medical faculty had also to come out and organise seminars and workshops to spread the positivity about the vaccinations. The medical faculty has more responsibility and they come have to out and be the leaders in this drive by offering themselves for the vaccination so as to build confidence among the general masses. After all they are the frontline workers to bear the brunt of this disease.
(Dr. Umer Farooq M.D.is Assistant Professor in Muzaffar Nagar Medical College and can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org)