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Covaxin or Covishield, a million-dollar question

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on April 23, 2021

‘Lesser side-effects’ make Covaxin the preferred ‘shot’ among citizens

Ever since the Covid-19 vaccination rolled out this year, one question that has been bothering many in India is: Covaxin or Covishield? Covaxin has emerged as the preferred vaccine for many and its shortage is actually slowing down the pace of vaccination across cities. “My family wants me to take only Covaxin. But they don’t have it here. So I will come again,” M Ramakanth, a software professional – returning home without taking a jab – at a hospital here on Friday told BusinessLine.

As of now, only two vaccines; Covishield of Serum Institute and Covaxin developed jointly by Hyderabad – based Bharat Biotech and ICMR are being administered in the country.

The Russian Vaccine, Sputnik V, is expected to hit Indian market next month as it has been approved for emergency use by the DCGI. According to sources, the preference for Covaxin is not an isolated phenomenon and is being witnessed by doctors and healthcare professionals across major cities

When contacted, K Hari Prasad, President, Apollo Group Hospitals, said, “The demand for Covaxin has definitely increased in the recent few weeks based on news items about side effects of other vaccine in other countries.” The media reports highlighting it is as the first ‘desi’ vaccine and the ‘rumours’ that it has no side-effects are also fuelling interest in Covaxin.

Promising results

On the efficacy of both vaccines, Hari Kishan Gonuguntla, Senior Interventional Pulmonologist, Yashoda Hosptials said, “In their respective trials, both the vaccines have shown promising results. Phase III trial results of Covishield showed up to a 90 per cent efficacy while for Covaxin, it has 78 per cent efficacy – a bit lower than earlier reported efficacy of 80.6 per cent.”

Covaxin is effective against UK and Brazilian variants while Covishield is effective against UK variant and is being tested against the Brazilian variant, he said adding, “Both are same in terms of reactions, although Covishield has found to have severe allergic reactions compared to Covaxin.”

However, the tendency to prefer Covaxin and a notion that it is “better and safer’’ than Covishied is “unscientific” and not based on valid information, say some experts. “Both are safe and have good immunogenicity and thus have been approved by the government. These decisions are based on trials, analysis of data from these trials and are evidence based and must be respected,” said Hari Prasad.

Experts say that one should stop believing social media views on efficacy of vaccines which could be “doctored”. “As those above 18 years of age can now get vaccines from May 1 onwards, there could be huge a business angle in vaccines,” he cautioned.

Published on April 23, 2021

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