India recently approved two vaccines for emergency usage, and is slated to begin inoculation from January 16. In what is being called the world's largest such program, around 30 crore people will be inoculated in the first phase. Three crore healthcare and frontline workers will get shots first, followed by around 27 crore people who are either above 50 years of age or have co-morbidities.
Both Covishield and Covaxin will be used, and according to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, people will not be offered a choice between the two vaccines. NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul also said these two vaccines have been tested in thousands of people, and that there were safe with no risk of any significance. A similar sentiment was echoed by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today.
"Both Covaxin and Covishield have been properly tested. Our scientists have tested them on all parameters and only then it has been decided to use them. Both the vaccines are safe and there is no difference between the two of them. Both of them will build immunity and antibodies," he said.
India’s top drug regulator requires vaccine candidates to show the desired response in at least 50% of those vaccinated during human testing. And while COVAXIN and COVISHIELD have both scored higher than this mark, the permissions given to the two vaccines earlier this year are slightly different.
As Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan clarified on January 3, the "emergency use authorisation for COVAXIN is differently conditional – in clinical trial mode".
"All COVAXIN recipients to be tracked, monitored as if they’re in trial. COVAXIN approval is ‘Monitored Approval’ with strict follow-up and rolling review," he had explained in a tweet. And while it had been called a strategic decision at the time, it would appear that both the vaccines are now being considered at an equal footing.