Most people in the world are struggling to secure enough vaccines to vaccinate their populations. India has the opposite problem: too many shots, but a lack of people ready to take them.
As India has one of the world’s largest immunization programs, some health-care and other frontline activists are hesitating to complete Phase III trials because of safety concerns over a vaccine. As of Monday, only 56% of people eligible to get shot have stepped into the world’s second-worst Kovid-19 outbreak nation.
Until the inoculation rate increases significantly, India will fall far short of its goal of vaccinating 300 million people or nearly a quarter of the population by July. This would thwart global efforts to stop the virus and snuff out optimism that a recovery in the economy set for the largest annual contraction in records going back to 1952 is at the root.
“At least 40% of the doctors here are unsure and want to wait,” said resident doctor Vinod Kumar of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bihar’s eastern state of Patna. “When there is a shortage of doctors in India, testing a vaccine for us, health care workers doesn’t make any sense.”
While vaccine hesitancy has surfaced in places like Japan and Brazil, and Chinese candidates have also had to question the data, the scale of the problem in India is by far the largest. Most of the difficulties encountered in places like the US and Europe are mostly due to scarce supply rather than vaccine approval, and some countries are turning to New Delhi for help: India says it will take 500 million shots per month for export , And countries such as Britain, Belgium and Saudi Arabia have sought to buy them.
India’s domestic vaccine program operates one of two shots: the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India Limited, or Kovaxin Shot, developed by Bharat Biotech International Limited, a Hyderabad-based private company. India’s approval to the Bharat Biotech Shot, which was developed with government-backed research groups, was met with widespread criticism from scientists over the lack of complete data.
“Many of our institutes are not comfortable with kovacsin because we don’t know how effective it is,” said Adarsh Pratap Singh, a member of the Resident Doctors Association at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. “To instill trust among the people, the government should come out with data, evidence of tests and encourage free and fair discussions.”
Both the company and the government have defended the shot. Bharat Biotech chairman Krishna Ella said earlier this month that the company had conducted “200% honest clinical trials” and had a track record of producing 16 safe and effective vaccines. “Indian scientists want to curse other Indian scientists,” he said, dismissing the criticisms at a virtual press briefing in January. 4. A spokesperson for Bharat Biotech did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, the government has urged healthcare workers to get vaccinated. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has sent a tweet to “#CoronaWarriors” to take the shot, while spreading rumors that the vaccine may cause infertility. A Federal Health Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
VK Paul, a member of the planning committee, said, “The vaccine’s hesitation among health workers must end – I’m pleading with the government to please adopt it, because no one knows how the epidemic will occur in the future.” ” Aayog, seeing that he has taken the Covaxin shot without any adverse effects.
“These two vaccines are safe,” he said. “We have a system to track it and if there is any unusual signal, it will be responded to as it should be.”
Suspicion is common in early vaccination and the beginning of any vaccine rollout, said Preeti Sudan, former secretary in the federal ministry of health and family welfare. India was successful in its polio immunization program, launching a major campaign involving children, mothers and opinion leaders to address the possibility of vaccination.
Low vaccination rate
As of Monday, India delivered around 2 million shots nationwide. In Madhya Pradesh, the largest state in central India, about 75% of the enrolled people came for vaccination on 21 January, while in Bihar two days later the rate was 51.6%. According to state government data, on January 19, about 55% of people were vaccinated in Rajasthan and 54% in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
While hesitation is related to both vaccines, people are most cautious about Bharat Biotech’s Kovaxin. For example, in Tamil Nadu, only 23.5% of the people allocated to Kovaxin received shots on 19 January, compared with 56% for the serum institute Kovishield, data show.
Nirmalya Mohapatra, a doctor at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in New Delhi, plans to “wait and watch” for more before vaccinating her with a shot of Bharat Biotech. If now given an option, he opts for Kovild, as its efficacy data were reviewed by leading medical journals.
“Copaxin may become a better vaccine in the future,” said Mohapatra, who is also the vice president of the Association of Resident Doctors at the hospital. “But there is some apprehension at the moment of lack of a full trial.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)