The peer-reviewed article based on the performance of India’s indigenous Covid vaccine, Covaxin, published by the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, comes as a shot in the arm for the country’s hobbled vaccination drive and puts it on the road to being a vaccine superpower. The endorsement of phase 2 trials of Covaxin as being safe and generating an immune response without any serious side effects should help gain the people’s trust in getting themselves jabbed. The common adverse events noted in this phase were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue and fever. Riddled by scepticism and concerns of safety and efficacy among the scientific community following the clearance of Covaxin for emergency use by the drug regulator even as phase 3 human trials were still on, the inoculation campaign has been marked by hesitancy ever since its rollout in mid-January.
The crucial phase 3 data that emerged last week is also promising as it addresses another significant concern: that of the vaccine’s efficacy. Bharat Biotech, which has manufactured the vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, Pune, announced that interim phase 3 trial data showed that the vaccine has shown 81 per cent effectiveness. If this claim is also corroborated by peer-reviewed analysis subsequently, then Covaxin should be on the roll as one of the most efficient doses globally and overcome the acceptance hurdles that it is currently facing — both in India and with prospective buyers abroad. The latest findings should alleviate some doubts of potency, such as those expressed in Brazil which had bought Covaxin doses.
Credibility is the key to the success of the vaccination programme, which, in turn, is vital for taming the coronavirus that has seen an alarmingly upward curve in the past couple of weeks in Punjab and some other states. With just 2.3 crore doses of the two vaccines approved for use — the other being Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield — having been administered in the nearly two months of the immunisation drive, the target of vaccinating 30 crore people by August at this rate is a long shot.