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Covishield vs Covaxin: A comparison of COVID-19 vaccines administering in India

India has approved two vaccines—Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford-AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India —for emergency use in the country.

March 03, 2021 / 06:29 PM IST

India began the second phase of the vaccination drive on March 1 in which everyone above 60 years of age and those over 45 years with comorbidities are able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The first phase of the immunisation drive against COVID-19 had begun on January 16 with healthcare workers of India's COVID-19 battle getting their first jabs. It gradually extended to front-line workers on February 2.

At the beginning of 2021, India approved two vaccines—Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford-AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII) —for emergency use in the country.

The two vaccines have been distributed to different states and Union territories. At present, beneficiaries have not been given the option to choose the vaccine they will be administered.

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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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Here is a comparison between the two COVID-19 vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin - approved in India:

Type of vaccine

Covishield is based on the viral vector platform. A chimpanzee adenovirus called ChAdOx1 is the vector that has been modified to carry the coronavirus spike protein into human cells. The adenovirus vector platform for vaccines gained traction during the battle to stop Ebola.

Covaxin is based on an inactivated whole SARS-CoV-2 virion, an old platform that is also used to make polio vaccines. A virus’s disease-producing capacity is inactivated under this method.

Number of doses

Both Covishield and Covaxin have to be administered in two doses. Bharat Biotech’s vaccine has been given approval for restricted use in emergency situations in the public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, which means consent has to be taken from the vaccine recipient. The recipients will be monitored after receiving Covaxin shots.

Dose interval

The Union Health Ministry has ordered the administration of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccination to those who have completed 28 days after receiving the first dose.

Delivery route

Both Covishield and Covaxin are intramuscular injections.

The age group of beneficiaries

SII’s vaccine is approved for people aged 18 years and above, while Bharat Biotech’s vaccine has been approved for those 12 years and above. There is no clarity on whether children and pregnant women can be given the vaccines.


SII’s vaccine at two full doses has been shown to have 62 percent efficacy in phase-3 clinical trials. Two full doses will be administered in India.

Bharat Biotech said on March 3 that its Covaxin vaccine was 81 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 after a third round of clinicals trials.


Covishield and Covaxin vaccines can be stored at 2–8 degrees Centigrade (household refrigerator temperature). Therefore, they found to be most suited for India as most vaccines commonly used in the country are kept at this temperature range. This makes transport and local storage of both vaccines safe and easy for all parts of the country.


Both Covishield and Covaxin are ‘Made in India’ vaccines. SII has an exclusive licence from AstraZeneca-Oxford University to manufacture and distribute the vaccine in India and other emerging markets.

So far, more than 1.43 crore people have received the vaccine against coronavirus infection in the country.

Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.
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first published: Mar 1, 2021 10:28 am
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