Pharma wrap: India rolls out COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare workers, needs to address technical glitches, vaccine hesitancy

Moneycontrol spoke to couple of doctors who received Covid-19 vaccine shot. All of them expressed satisfaction on the way things went.

January 17, 2021 / 12:11 PM IST
Covaxin, Bharat Biotech

Covaxin, Bharat Biotech

India's COVID-19 vaccine rollout has got off to a good start. There were no cases of any serious adverse events, but the glitches in the CoWin platform and vaccine hesitancy was seen in some places.

Moneycontrol spoke to couple of doctors who received Covid-19 vaccine shot. All of them expressed satisfaction on the way things went.

"I was told in the morning, that the vaccination will start at 11 am, and I should reach the hospital. I got an SMS and a call from the hospital. After the PM speech the vaccination started at Medcity, Kochi, Kerala. I have produced my identity proof, and my details such as name, address and phone number were taken. I got my vaccine shot. I was asked to wait for half an hour, the vaccination was absolutely uneventful, I straight away went to attend patients," said Dr Jeeson C Unni, Senior Consultant, Centre of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Health at Aster Medcity, Kochi of Kerala who got the vaccine on the first day.

Nine doctors of Aster have received COVID-19 vaccine. Jeeson said he received Covishield vaccine.

Dr. Rajalingam Vairagyam, senior ophthalmologist and Superindent of government's Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital in Hyderabad said he has received Covid-19 vaccine, along with 29 of his colleagues, and there wasn't any reactions.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Vairagyam, said he got Covishield vaccine shot, and has been busy all the day seeing patients.

Around 1,65,714 healthcare workers have been vaccinated on January 16 the day of the launch. While Covishield vaccine was supplied to all States and Union Territories. Covaxin vaccine was supplied to 12 states.

Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), became one of the first Indians to get vaccinated against Covid-19 on Saturday morning.

Guleria received Bharat Biotech's Covaxin shot on live television soon after sanitation worker Manish Kumar became the first to be administered the vaccine in the country at AIIMS in Delhi, in the presence of Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Teething troubles

The vaccine rollout will be in a phased manner. In the initial phase, the government said it would inoculate about one crore healthcare workers. This will be followed by two crore frontline workers, police, armed forces, municipal workers, revenue staff and others. In the third phase, 27 crore people above 50 years of age and those with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, and organ transplant patients will get the vaccine.

Please read here to know more about the vaccine rollout.

The government said they were some issues in delay in uploading of beneficiary list at some session sites and in some cases healthcare workers were vaccinated though not scheduled for the session.

For instance Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) was able to vaccines only half of the targeted 4000 healthcare workers on the first day. The slow rollout was attributed to glitches in CoWin platform.

In the Sri Venkateswara Ramnarayan Ruia Government General Hospital in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh - the Superintendent Dr T Bharati had make appeals hospital staffers to take the shot, as there was hesitancy to receive the vaccine.

To be sure, at the moment there is no choice There are two COVID-19 vaccines available, Serum Institute of India's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. At the moment there is no choice, one will have to take whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available at the determined health facility.

The Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital's (RMLH's) Resident Doctor Association (RDA) has sent a letter to the hospital administration, saying doctors of the hospital are apprehensive about Bharat Biotech's Covaxin due to "lack of complete trial", they instead asked for Covishield vaccine.

For Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin which was granted restricted emergency use approval under clinical trial mode, one needs to sign a three-page informed consent form before taking the vaccine shot. The person will also be monitored for any serious side effects. The compensation for serious adverse event will be paid by sponsor Bharat Biotech if the SAE is proven to be causally related to the vaccine.

Please read here about about informed consent form of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

India has reported 10.5 million COVID-19 cases and 1,52,274 deaths. The active cases were about 2 lakh. India is reporting about 15,000 new cases per day, in contrast to about 90,000 in September. The steep drop in cases, and low mortality rate has leading to vaccine hesitancy among some people.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
first published: Jan 17, 2021 12:11 pm

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