Frontline workers, who are first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, are galled by the fact that they have don't have a choice between the Serum Institute's Covishield vaccine and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. Several workers have now reconsidered their decision of receiving the vaccine.
With Phase 1 of the vaccine administration, all set to launch on Saturday, many people are planning to reconsider the decision of taking the vaccine particularly due to the lack of data on the safety of the Covaxin vaccine. Several experts have also said that the Central Government should have waited for Covaxin's efficacy studies to be completed before giving the green light to its rollout.
"The government has indicated that there will not be a choice between Covishield or Covaxin. While both are under restricted emergency use, one of them is still awaiting efficacy studies to be completed. It has also been approved specifically under clinical trial mode where specific consent will presumably need to be taken. This might raise questions about (lack of) choice, and could impact uptake," Anant Bhan, a bio-ethics researcher, told The New Indian Express.
Several healthcare workers have also pointed out that at the time of the approval of the two vaccines, experts like Dr Bhargava and Dr Randeep Guleria of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, had said that the Covaxin would remain as a 'back-up' until and unless its efficacy data from the Phase-3 trials would be made available.
"Also, both vaccines are publicly funded, and both have issues with lack of data. For Covaxin, Phase-3 trials are still going on, and no raw data is available. And for both the vaccines, information around adverse effects remains opaque. There is also concern among the medical fraternity regarding the rollout, especially around adverse effects following neurological symptoms and the issues in Bhopal," said the doctors.
Nevertheless, Dr Jayanthi C R of Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMRCI) said that people should not be double-minded about taking the vaccine since the government would have taken the decision keeping in mind the health and safety of people.
"In many countries, more than one vaccine has been given. We need not worry or panic. The earlier data available shows that both the vaccines are safe," said Dr Jayanthi.
According to Dr Bhan, "Only one type of vaccine will be available for recipients. This might be due to logistical constraints of limited supply." Experts also wonder if the government is administering Covaxin in some places due to logistic constraints.