On January 8, 2021, the Indian government began its second nationwide dry run of the COVID-19 vaccine. A country with a population of 135.26 crores requires a well chalked out vaccine delivery and inoculation plan in place. The government is doing just that and it is essential, we the citizens, become privy to it.
We unboxed 2021 with one of the most important gifts we all were waiting for since the time the pandemic hit the world. Our nation currently has 4 vaccines out of which, two are already ready for use. In case you are confused as to which one to choose from, all COVID-19 vaccines do more or less the same in fighting off the virus except that their way of attacking the virus is different.
Let us first get to know about the 4 vaccines that are going to be made available to us:
Serum Institute of India’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine named Covishield was the first vaccine in India to receive the government’s approval. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved it for emergency use. The vaccine is also known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222. It works by activating/triggering or waking up the body’s immune system and instructing it to fight the virus. It causes the body to generate anti-bodies on its own to attack the Coronavirus. Covishield is now being called the vaccine of the poor due to its easy viability. Moreover, the vaccine is most likely to cost an individual anywhere between Rs 225 and Rs 300 in India. It can be stored as well as transported at 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius for up to six months, which works great in a hot country like India. Covishield will be injected into the citizens into the muscle at the top of the upper arm twice with a gap of around 4 weeks.
2. BHARAT BIOTECH
A locally developed vaccine of India’s Bharat Biotech, Covaxin has upped the hopes of all Indians. This is the second vaccine to receive authorization for emergency use. Covaxin is the first indigenous vaccine developed together by a Hyderabad-based pharma company named Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Indian government’s top body for medical research. Since this vaccine received immediate authorization after just seven weeks since its rollout when it was in its 3rd phase of human trials, it has raised many doubts from various sides.
Brushing aside all speculations, the Indian government clarified that the vaccine was granted authorization based on the “safety and immunogenicity data,” which is generated from the first two phases of clinical trials. To fight against the virus, Covaxin uses Vero cells extracted from the kidneys of African green monkeys that deliver the inactivated novel coronavirus strain. However, immunity derived from the inactivated virus is weaker as compared to vaccines developed using other approaches. This puts the vaccine more in doubt since the efficacy results of the first two phases have been released by the company, but the efficacy data of the 3rd phase yet hasn’t been released in spite of it receiving final authorization.
Covaxin is also going to be injected in two doses with a gap of 14 days between each jab, however, scientists and doctors are looking at another way of inoculation via the nose which is said to increase the effectiveness of the vaccine and eliminate the need to take two doses. The vaccine can be stored at 2-8° degrees Celsius. The price of Covaxin is said to stand at Rs 350, however, the final cost hasn’t yet come out. As reported by The Indian Express, the Drugs Controller General of India VG Somani has said that “We will never approve anything if there’s slightest of safety concern. Vaccines are 110 % safe.”
3. ZYDUS CADILA ZYCOV-D VACCINE
A leading Indian Pharmaceutical company, Zydus Cadila is soon to join the list of vaccines available after it finishes its 3rd phase of clinical trials. The name of the vaccine is ZyCov-D. It is a “plasmid DNA” vaccine that makes use of genetically engineered plasmids that are coded with an antigen that triggers the body’s immune system. The DNA that gets jabbed into the body then matches with that of the virus resulting in the body generating antibodies to fight the virus. The results of the first two phases of the trails have come out to be safe. The results of the 3rd phase are awaited.
This is a vaccine developed by the US’s pharma company Novavax. The name of the vaccine is NVX-CoV2373. This vaccine depends on the particles of the virus to train the immune system to fight the virus. In this vaccine, the spike protein of the coronavirus is extracted from insect cell and jabbed into the human body. This is the reason why the vaccine is safe but just like Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, it is weak as the immune system reacts to the jab weakly. To make it effective, additional adjuvants to boost the response of the immune system. Adjuvants are extra ingredients that facilitate the vaccine in making it more effective.
The above-mentioned vaccines are also said to be effective on the new COVID-19 strain from the UK since it has mild symptoms. There is not much data available on the effectiveness of these vaccines on the new strain that originated in South Africa since it is fairly new. Experts say that it’s too early to comment anything on it.
Besides these four vaccines, there are other two vaccines that India is looking forward to purchasing. These include the US’s Pfizer vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik-V.
The country’s health minister has stated that in the first phase of the vaccination all vaccines will be free of cost, however from the second phase onwards, vaccines will be charged. Some state governments, however, that includes Delhi and Maharashtra among others, have promised free vaccination to their citizens.
Common side effects of the vaccines:
Every vaccine will have certain common side effects which will perish after a certain period of time. These common side effects involve muscle pain where the vaccine gets jabbed, headache, mild fever, fatigue, chills, and vomiting.
Myths about COVID vaccine busted
The following myths are completely untrue and must not be trusted
- The vaccines are rushed and not developed properly.
- They will affect the immune system adversely
- They make one impotent
- They will alter human DNA
- One will COVID-19 from the vaccines
- I have already had COVID-19 so I don’t require it anymore
- I will no longer have to use masks, sanitizers and maintain social distancing
- People with underlying health conditions must not take the vaccine
- Vaccines contain aborted human fetal tissue
- The vaccines will have no impact due to the mutating nature of the virus
- It’s all a conspiracy theory
India’s vaccine delivery management (Co-Win)
The first mock drill of COVID-19 vaccination was held on 2nd January, 8th being the second dry run. The dry run is conducted to see how the actual vaccination drive will shape up and to administer the loopholes if any. India currently has 1 crore 4 lakh cases of COVID-19 infections. The Union Health Minister of India Dr. Harsh Vardhan has overseen the dry run in a few states and has informed the country’s citizens that the vaccine will be made available to its citizens in just two-three days.
Currently, the dry run is being conducted at three-session sites of 736 districts across 33 states and Union Territories (UTs) which are preparing for an imminent rollout. To implement the mock drill across the country, a total of 1.7 lakh vaccinators and 3 lakh team members have been appointed and trained for operations that include verification of beneficiaries, vaccination process, management of cold chains and logistics, bio-medical waste management, and adverse event following immunization (AEFI) management and also for the smooth operation of Co-WIN software.
Co-Win or Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network is a digital platform that is going to be used to carry out the vaccination drive. This software is going to require the citizens to provide details of their Aadhar card. It will also be sending an SMS confirming vaccination in at least 12 languages to help inoculate millions of people against COVID-19. Co-Win will help the government to digitally track who has received the vaccine.
Once the actual vaccination drive starts, the government will make use of air transportation to deliver vaccines to the respective centers set up in the states. Pune is going to be the central hub from where the main distribution of the vaccines will take place. Passenger aircrafts will be transporting vaccines in the belly of the carrier. There are four primary stores called the Government Medical Store Depot (GMSD) located in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Haryana’s Karnal from where the vaccines will then be transported to several other mini-hubs set up by the government in the country.
Further, there are a total 41 destinations (airports) across the country finalized for the delivery of vaccines. For vaccine delivery in northern India, Delhi and Karnal will be made mini-hubs. For the eastern region, Kolkata and Guwahati, and for southern India, Chennai and Hyderabad will be the designated points. Guwahati will also be a nodal point for the Northeast.
How must the citizens register for the vaccination?
India’s COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system is soon going to launch an app for the citizens for registration purposes. Please note that the app is still in its early stages of development and hasn’t been up for common people to use. Refrain from downloading any kind of vaccine registration apps and providing any personal data as they are unauthorized and unauthentic. Till then, the common citizens must wait for the government to provide proper instructions.
As of now, 70 million doses are ready in India however, pricing deals are delaying the vaccination process.