The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the way we live our lives. The simplest of tasks such as going grocery shopping has become a complex ritual of donning a face mask, gloves and protective clothing.
India is now going through what is known as the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have soared exponentially and has, in the process, crippled the health system of the country.
Before the second wave hit, the Indian government stepped up its humanitarian efforts by sending out supplies and vaccines to other countries. On the 4th of March, a shipment of 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca/CoviShield reached the shores of Canada. Then, on the 27th of March, a shipment of 200,000 doses of the same vaccine was shipped off to Copenhagen for the United Nations Peace Keeping Force (UNPKF).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mod, had assured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February that India would do its best to support Canada in their fight against Covid-19 and aide them in their vaccination efforts.
According to the Hindu, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Nagaraj Naidu, said this at the General Assembly of the United Nations, “Lack of global cooperation and disparity in the accessibility of vaccines will affect the poorest nations the most.” Mr. Naidu recognised that India had “supplied more vaccines globally than have vaccinated our own people.”
It has also been reported that India has exported a total of 62 million doses of vaccine while the country has vaccinated only 55 million of its own people. Mostly, having got just the first dose!
Currently, there are two vaccines available in the Indian market – Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech and CoviShield, a version of the Oxford- AstraZeneca vaccine locally manufactured at the Serum Institute of India.
What is Covaxin?
Covaxin is manufactured by Bharat Biotech, a biotechnology company based out of Hyderabad. They manufactured the vaccine by using a sample of the coronavirus isolated by India’s Institute of Virology. Notably, Covaxin is an inactive vaccine. According to Medical News Today, “in an inactivated vaccine, the pathogen is killed or modified in such a way that it is unable to replicate. It cannot cause disease and is, therefore, suitable for those with a compromised immune system.”
However, inactivated vaccines usually have a longer production time and because it is usually not as strong as live vaccines, multiple shots may be required.
According to the company, mild side-effects are to be expected after getting the shot. Some of the side-effects reported by people are headache, fatigue, weakness, vomiting, dizziness and redness and pain in the injection site.
What is CoviShield?
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been marketed in India as CoviShield. It was one of the first vaccines to be approved in the world. CoviShield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical behemoth is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. It is based in Maharashtra, India and was founded by Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966.
According to a report by the BBC Network, “The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness. When the vaccine is injected into a patient, it prompts the immune system to start making antibodies and primes it to attack any coronavirus infection.”
Side-effects of this vaccine are mostly mild to moderate. People who have received the vaccine have reported nausea, itching, pain where the stab was given for upto 1-2 days, malaise, rash and swelling. Severe side-effects are very rare but it is possible for people to get high fever, coughing and breathing problems.
What is Sputnik V?
A third vaccine has now been approved in India. Known as Sputnik V, the vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Institute, Moscow. Although, it had been released before final trial data had been made public, scientists are believed to have approved of its benefits.
It is also much easier to store and transport the vaccine because of its optimum storage temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. So far, the vaccine has been approved in 60 countries.
Indian multinational pharmaceutical company, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, have been given the opportunity to import the first batch of 125 million doses to the country. They will also oversee the production of the vaccine next quarter.
Which vaccine should you get?
The best vaccine you could get at this moment is ANY. The massive shortage of vaccine doses removes the liberty of being able to choose. The safest and most effective way to stay safe is to get vaccinated, regardless of the vaccine. It is significant to note vaccines are provided to states based on availability. Not all states will be receiving the same vaccine. Thereby, removing the freedom to choose.
In the wake of an unexpected second wave, the Indian government are now scrambling to procure more doses. The ruling government’s philanthropic efforts to help other suffering nations have now backfired due to a large shortage of vaccine doses in our country.
Home-grown companies are finding it difficult to keep up with the ever increasing demand. Promises that were made before the surge in cases and deaths, have all gone out the window.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, and yet we are at a vaccination standstill. According to India’s Co-Win portal, only 9.5% of India’s 1.35 billion population have been partially or fully vaccinated.
The wait for a ‘better vaccine’ runs a huge risk, which the population cannot afford to take. According to the Times of India, Sarah Zhang, a writer for The Atlantic, tells us that vaccines are not meant to be perfect. “FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) said a vaccine needed to be just 50% effective.”
Zhang also educates us that vaccines are not meant to completely kill off the virus but to minimize the effects. As long as it keeps you away from the hospital, it has done its job. It is much preferable than not being vaccinated at all. Therefore, getting the jab should be the number one priority on the to-do list.
Author: Neil Wallang
Neil Wallang is a staff writer. He has a Masters in English from Delhi University. An avid Manchester United fan, he loves technology, cars, and books.