Healthcare workers must not doubt the two Covid-19 vaccines India is using and concerns about “adverse events” following immunisation are unfounded, said two senior government officials on Tuesday.
“The whole world is clamouring for a vaccine. If we still decline then it is a matter of sadness. … I will urge them (healthcare workers) to please endorse the vaccine. We have to start non-Covid services. Those who are fortunate to receive the vaccine should not refuse it,” said V K Paul, member-health, Niti Aayog, at a press conference in Delhi. Paul, who took a shot of the Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin on Saturday, said India has a breather from Covid-19 and it is time to vaccinate as many as possible.
India’s health ministry said that the adverse events following immunisation make up 0.18 per cent of the total vaccinations and only 0.002 per cent cases have ended in hospitalisation. India has since Saturday vaccinated more than 630,000 people: the fastest in the world in doing so, officials said.
“Concerns about adverse events following immunisation are unfounded and insignificant.
We are in a situation of a lot of comfort. These two vaccines are safe. There is no undue reactogenicity,” said health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, referring to a medical term about expected reactions to a vaccine.
The central government has asked states– Punjab, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu are some–with less than 40 per cent of the targeted vaccine coverage to take steps to ramp up the number of sessions.
Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are among states holding vaccination sessions twic a week. The ministry advised them to increase the frequency of vaccinations. “We have just started and we will pick up speed,” Bhushan added.
The Health Ministry clarified that the decision provide Covishield, which is manufactured by Serum Institute of India, or Covaxin to states was taken on the basis of supplies. The final decision on which of the vaccines will go to which session was left entirely up to the states. “Micromanagement in such matters can be done better by the states,” Bhushan said.
Bhushan said that the follow up on adverse events post vaccination is a passive exercise in case a person is given Covishield and the onus of reporting such events is on the beneficiary. In the case of Covaxin, however, a proactive follow up is done by the doctors since the approval has been given for restricted use in clinical trial mode.
He said that in case of any adverse event that is caused by the Covaxin, the cost of hospitalisation will be borne by the authorities. Assuring that a robust mechanism has been put in place for reporting and monitoring adverse events, Bhushan said that the side effects such as anxiety and hysteria are also being recorded. “One can even have a crying bout. But it subsides after a few minutes.”