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India’s Indigenous Vaccine: Covaxin

Informative Article

COVID-19 in India is rampant and it’s continuing to spread fast. Therefore, Covaxin, a new vaccine to combat the virus, is its solution. However, due to it being produced in such a short time, it has caused the rise of controversy on whether or not it is ready to be spread.

by Sriya Gundlapally

COVID-19 in India is rampant and it’s continuing to spread fast. Therefore, Covaxin, a new vaccine to combat the virus, is its solution. However, due to it being produced in such a short time, it has caused the rise of controversy on whether or not it is ready to be spread.

The coronavirus pandemic has been negatively impacting the public’s lives for over a year now. There have been 96.2 million cases worldwide as of January 2021, with 10.6 million of those cases originating in India, the country with the second-highest number of infections. Recently, vaccinations have been made available to increasing numbers of people, from health professionals to others. Prime Minister Modi of India describes the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program as the “world’s biggest.”

In June of 2020, Covaxin was created by Bharat Biotech in India. This vaccine needed to go through multiple trials since it could not be used until proven safe. However, the controversy surrounding this is around whether the vaccine is safe enough. Some believe the vaccine is safe enough while others urge further testing.

Although the Indian government approved the vaccine for emergency use on January 3rd, many scientists and public health advocates are against the early administration of the vaccine due to uncertain conditions of the vaccine and the lack of transparency in the issue. Bharat Biotech and those in support of the spread of the vaccine are interested in the potential of the vaccine and the emergency purposes Covaxin serves. The vaccine must gain trust among people not only in India but also far beyond.

The Vaccine is Not Ready:

Critics of Covaxin focus on how the vaccine itself did not pass a third trial which would be needed to determine the exact efficacy of the vaccine. Malini Aisola, a leader for the All India Drug Action Network, entails that the “chief concern is the lack of efficacy” and it is “too early for there to be any data.” Covaxin has undergone the first two phases of trials, but it is lacking a phase three trial. This third trial is crucial to many since it will allow for the proof of multicultural functioning for the vaccine to be distributed past the Indian borders to other countries in need. Without the right trialing before distribution, the vaccine can be ineffective or even harmful.

Another major focus is on the company producing Covaxin. Bharat Biotech’s founder Krishna Ella discussed on January 4th in a news conference that his vaccine is “200%” safe. Despite his efforts, many are not supporting this since the declaration that the vaccine will be used for emergency purposes was not as widespread, along with the data backing up the possibility of the emergency use. Releasing the vaccination while it was still in clinical trial mode, meaning it was not completely tested, presented people with an uncertainty of the ethical implications of this vaccine.

Scientists are among the many people who are doubting the efficacy of the vaccine and whether or not it will be safe for the public. Dr. Shahid Jameel, an influential virologist in India, further asks about whether it is “fair to people who received it” if Covaxin was found to only be “50% efficacious.” The vaccine, meant for the safety of people, is thought to be a threat due to the lack of complete certainty of its safety. Hypothetically, it may not be a practical decision to roll out a vaccine that has the potential of harmful side effects, even if the percentages seem slim.

Furthermore, the government is being blamed in this situation too, as people such as Shashi Tharoor, an opposition politician, are against the “haste” caused by Modi’s “self-reliant India campaigning” and the “lack of transparency by regulatory officials.” Many people have not been exposed to any clarity as to why the third trial was being omitted, leading to the issues in scientific protocol and political rulings.

The Vaccine is Ready

Whether the vaccine has completed the clinical trials or not is unnecessary to some. The Covaxin’s creation as the “indigenous” vaccine for COVID-19 in India has brought a stronger nationalism. Modi’s praise for a self-reliant India has allowed people to see the strength and pride of India. Additionally, a part of the public values the implementation of the vaccine as soon as possible. According to an article published by the National Public Radio, India “aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July of 2021” through voluntary participation. People who want the vaccine to be widespread so that there is more safety believe that the goals India has set are reachable through an early start.

Even though the Covaxin results for the third trial are expected to come in March, there may not be a need to wait as long due to the results of phase one and phase two trials; according to the National Institute of Virology, the vaccine was “well-tolerated in all dose groups,'' and the worst issues were “headache, pain, and fatigue.” Early in January, the Drugs Controller General of India approved Covaxin, marking a milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic in India. People regarded this as a great nationalistic project due to the World Health Organization and Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal’s recognition of the vaccine. Soundarajan, the governor of the state of Telangana, also calls the opposition “unwarranted” because the efforts are not receiving enough praise from all of India. Covaxin follows a similar method to previous vaccines by utilizing inactive coronaviruses, a method that has years of history and proof, therefore there isn’t an absolute necessity for a third trial according to the founder of Bharat Biotech, Krishna Ella, as he calls Covaxin “200% safe.”

Neutral Stance

As of January 2021, the world has lived with the coronavirus for over a year, and a vaccine must become available in order for “normal” life to proceed. Bharat Biotech is a well-known vaccine manufacturer with experience in twenty countries, but the disregard for some parts of the testing process makes it difficult to decide whether it is practical to spread the vaccine. There have not been any serious conditions from Covaxin aside from typical vaccination side effects, but there still stands the possibility for more significant negative impacts to develop. This issue is split between safety or progress, both of which are large concerns to communities worldwide.


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