The Delhi government has rationed the tranche of two Covid-19 vaccines it has stocked in 81 hospitals finalised for the launch of a massive immunization drive against the novel coronavirus in the national capital.
However, the distribution pattern has raised a few eyebrows as the Cvaccine by Bharat Biotech, Covaxin, has been allotted only to six Centre-run hospitals, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Safdarjung, and Ram Manohar Lohia (RML), a list of hospitals with the vaccines allotted by the Delhi government revealed.
Meanwhile, 75 hospitals which include state-run and private hospitals, will receive Covishield, developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca with Serum Institute of India (SII), which is handling its marketing and production in the country.
While no official clarification or reason were presented by the Delhi government behind the distribution pattern of the vaccine, a top official from the state health department told IANS that it was done at the Centre’s behest.
“The vaccine and its doses are allocated as per specific directions from the Central government,” the official said.
However, the move is expected to court a controversy since the healthcare workers already have a reservation against the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin which received approval for restricted emergency use in clinical trial mode by India’s drug regulator without submitting the phase III efficacy data.
Many healthcare workers who spoke to IANS also revealed their apprehensions towards the Covaxin.
“I’m all in to get vaccinated but would not take Covaxin,” an ENT specialist at the Centre-run Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC) said.
The healthcare workers of the LHMC will be offered Covaxin as its associated hospital Kalawati Saran is listed in the 6 Centre-run hospitals which would receive the Bharat Biotech’s vaccine.
Jugal Kishore, Professor and Head, Department of Community Medicine, Safdarjung, said that one vaccine candidate should have been provided to all centres to avoid any controversy.
“It would have been better if the government had provided one vaccine candidate to all the centres so that no confusion gets into the minds of the people,” he added.
However, Kishore also concurred with reservations against the Covaxin seemingly among the healthcare workers.
He cited a statement of a leading clinical scientist, Gagandeep Kang, who is also a vice-chairperson of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Inventions (CEPI), a global consortium facilitating promising vaccine candidates for Covid-19.
Kang had said that she “would not take Covaxin until its required efficacy data is made public”.
Covaxin has been in the spotlight of controversy since it was recommended for restricted emergency use by the Subject Expert Committee of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
Later, it was approved on January 3 for the roll-out in Covid immunization programme.
Its approval for the immunization programme has drawn flak from public health advocacy groups, researchers, scientists and activists in the domain.
The concern with the Covaxin largely remains with its approval for inoculation without the data from phase III clinical trials which determine efficacy of the drug since the trials are still ongoing. So far, any data proving the vaccine’s efficacy has not been published in the public domain, including any results of an interim analysis.
The national capital has received a total 2.84 lakh Covid vaccines in the last two days.
On Tuesday, the city received 2.64 lakh doses of Covishield, while a consignment carrying 20,000 doses of Covaxin was delivered to the city’s vaccine storage facility on Wednesday.
The roll-out of at 81 locations will begin with vaccinating around 2.25 lakh healthcare workers of Delhi in the phase I of the Covid immunization drive.