Speed up the rollout
The findings of the first interim analysis of the Phase III clinical trials of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin have come as a shot in the arm – literally – for both Indian scientists and the government’s efforts to vaccinate the vulnerable part of the population. The finding that the India-developed vaccine has an efficacy level of 80.6 per cent, is actually higher than the Oxford University-Astra Zeneca-developed Covishield, which has already been approved and rolled out for use in India.
The Covaxin trial findings also endorse the confidence imposed in the vaccine by the Indian drug regulatory authorities, since the vaccine was approved for 'restricted emergency use' two months ago, when limited data was available. Now that the Phase III interim data is out – the study will continue till 130 participants in the test and control groups together develop Covid immunity – there is sufficient justification to step up the rollout of Covaxin.
So far, partly due to the ‘restricted use’ approval and partly due to hesitancy on part of patients due to lack of data, Covishield has accounted for 90 per cent of the vaccinations done so far. Now with the backing of the data, and the fact that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the Covaxin shot, public acceptance of the Covid vaccines in general, and Covaxin in particular, should go up dramatically.
India’s massive population poses a huge challenge in the fight against Covid. So far, the uptake on vaccinations – crucial to get the growth momentum back in the economy – has been below par. Vaccination is critical for movement and crowding curbs to be eased, which will help sectors like travel, hospitality and tourism, that have been devastated by the pandemic restriction, regain some semblance of normalcy. With a 0.4 per cent growth in GDP last quarter, India may be out of technical recession, but is still a long way from returning to normal. The more the vaccination drive can be speeded up, the quicker will be the economic recovery.