Leaving public vaccination officials in a fix, resident doctors of Delhi's Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on Saturday refused to take the 'Covaxin' COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and said that they would prefer to be inoculated with Serum Institute's 'Covishield' shot instead.
The doctors' apprehension is based on the fact that 'Covaxin' lacks complete trial data on the public domain, while 'Covishield' has successfully completed all stages of the trial.
AZD1222, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with the Oxford University, is being manufactured under the brand name 'Covishield' by the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine producer.
In a letter to the medical superintendent, the Resident Doctors' Association (RDA) of the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital said that the resident doctors were "a bit apprehensive" about Covaxin and might not participate in the immunisation drive in large numbers thus defeating the purpose of the exercise which began in the country on Saturday.
"We have come to know that the COVID-19 vaccination drive is being conducted by the hospital today. Covaxin manufactured by Bharat Biotech is being preferred in our hospital over Covishield manufactured by Serum Institute."
"The residents are a bit apprehensive about the lack of complete trial in case of Covaxin and might not participate in huge numbers thus defeating the purpose of vaccination. We request you to vaccinate us with Covishield which has completed all stages of trial before its roll-out," the letter stated.
The granting of emergency use approval to 'Covaxin' had seen a barrage of critiques, even though the Government of India had sought to allay the fears, saying "a lot of work" had gone into both the vaccines.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched India's COVID-19 vaccination drive and asserted that the made-in-India vaccines being rolled out will ensure a "decisive victory" for the country over the coronavirus pandemic.
In the national capital, the vaccination exercise will be carried out at 81 sites across all its 11 districts.
At the RML hospital, a security guard was the first one to receive the shot.
Six central government hospitals -- AIIMS, Safdarjung, RML, Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and two ESI hospitals -- have been chosen as sites for the drive. Besides these, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Delhi-government run GTB Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, DDU Hospital, BSA Hospital, Delhi State Cancer Institute, ILBS Hospital are among the vaccination sites.
Private facilities -- Max Hospital, Fortis Hospital, Apollo Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital -- have also been chosen as sites for the exercise.
According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.
The cost of vaccination of healthcare and frontline workers will be borne by the central government.
(With inputs from agencies)