This effort is supported by two local vaccines and India’s previous experience with large-scale vaccination campaigns. But what would have been a victory for the country’s vaccine industry has been held back by controversy.
The Indian government has granted emergency approval for two vaccines – a locally manufactured version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and a vaccine called Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian pharmaceutical company.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has only completed Phase 3 clinical trials for safety and efficacy. Bharat Biotech ended early trials of its vaccine but has yet to provide any data on whether it works. However, both vaccines are given starting on Saturday, and people who are vaccinated will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive.
To complicate matters further, the Indian regulators have said that the Bharat Biotech vaccine will be used to “clinical trial mode,” a phrase that left experts in awe. Gagandeep Kang, one of India’s foremost vaccine experts, She told an interviewer that she “has no evidence.” what do you mean.
Dilnaz Devadvala, a 71-year-old anesthesiologist, was the first person to receive the vaccine at BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, a large government-run facility in Mumbai that has been On the front lines of the pandemic for months. She was happy to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine but said she would have been “slightly anxious” taking Covaxin because the final trial was not over yet.
Unlike the US and UK, India has started the vaccination campaign at a time when the virus is in retreat. New cases have fallen dramatically since it peaked in September: India records around 14,000 cases per day And less than 200 deaths.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the vaccine campaign with a televised speech saluting the efforts of the country’s scientists but urging citizens to be careful about the spread of the virus. The vaccinations are scheduled to begin at 3,000 locations Across the country, a number that authorities say will rise in the coming weeks.
To start, the Indian government has purchased 11 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute in India, and 5.5 million doses of Bharat Biotech vaccine. Both vaccines were It sold at $ 2.75 a dose (Pfizer vaccine, by comparison, It costs $ 19.50). If the goals are met, 300,000 people can receive doses on Saturday.
The First in the line The vaccination has nearly 30 million health-care workers, soldiers, paramilitary employees, and municipal employees who deal with sanitation. They will receive free vaccinations. Then, the vaccination campaign will target 270 million people over the age of 50 in addition to those under the age of 50 who suffer from comorbidities.
At Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi, a sprawling facility that has treated more than 10,000 COVID-19 patients, strings of marigolds have made the road leading to the vaccination center. Suresh Kumar, the hospital’s medical director, was elated. He said, “This danger and this crisis is over.” “We won the war.”
Many doctors who have just received the AstraZeneca vaccine said they had concerns about potential side effects but still felt it was a necessary step. “Someone has to take a risk,” said Taihamdao, a 30-year-old radiologist who uses one name. “I’m sure something good will come out of it.”
Starting a vaccine program is important not only for India, however For the entire developing world. India is a vaccine powerhouse with a proven track record of low-cost manufacturing. The serum institute of India is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world by volume.
The Serum Institute will be a major supplier of COVAX, a global initiative supported by the World Health Organization to equitably distribute vaccines to poor countries. Many countries – including Brazil, Bangladesh and Nepal – are looking to purchase vaccines directly from Indian companies.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute, said the company will start delivering doses of COVAX by the end of January. He said that the company has concluded deals to supply the AstraZeneca vaccine to Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Morocco.
In India, health officials have been preparing for weeks – registering recipients, training vaccinators, and running pilot trials. Neither AstraZeneca vaccine nor Bharat Biotech vaccine require ultra-cold storage, which is an important addition in a country like India.
Rajesh Bhaskar, in charge of managing Covid-19 in Punjab state, said he expects to be able to vaccinate 30,000 people on Saturday and complete the vaccination of health care workers in the state within 10 days.
“There is a feeling of great relief and relief,” Bhaskar said. “We hope this will lead to a suppression of the epidemic and eventually we will get rid of it.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine will account for the vast majority of the vaccines taken on Saturday, but Covaxin is also a key part of the launch, especially in cities. Anant Bhan, a public health and bioethics expert, said there was still “a lot of speculation” about how regulators came to the decision to grant emergency approval for the Bharat Biotech vaccine in the absence of efficacy data.
Bharat Biotech did not respond to questions about concerns about the effectiveness of its vaccine, but it did point to results from early-stage studies showing an immune response as an indication of future results.
An expert in the Indian vaccine industry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly, said the Bharat Biotech vaccine is “incredibly safe but I don’t know if the thing is working.” The expert added that both vaccines are “less than ideal,” noting that the data on the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine showed significant differences. Partly as a result of a dosing error.
Some experts worry that the lack of transparency in the approval process for vaccines for emergency use could undermine confidence in them more broadly. This may represent a break from the past in India, where doubts about a vaccine are declining and immunization is seen as a key tool in reducing deaths.
Tania Dutta in New Delhi and Jyoti Schiller in Mumbai contributed to this report.