Coronavirus | COVID-19 vaccination preparations done, rollout in near future: NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul

Covaxin works on the whole of the virus even with mutations, says Dr. Paul.

Updated - January 04, 2021 08:48 am IST

Published - January 03, 2021 08:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI

World Health Organisation and UNICEF officials inspect a COVID-19 vaccination dry run camp at a primary health centre in Ekkattuthangal, Chennai on January 2, 2020.

World Health Organisation and UNICEF officials inspect a COVID-19 vaccination dry run camp at a primary health centre in Ekkattuthangal, Chennai on January 2, 2020.

India should be able to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination programme in the “near future” as its preparation is ready and robust, NITI Aayog member (health) V.K. Paul said in an exclusive interview with The Hindu, adding that at least 12 countries have specified their interest in India’s indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin .

He said preparations were ready to reach the last mile to dispense vaccines to the beneficiaries.

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Stating that all vaccines currently available world-over work even with the mutation of the virus, Dr. Paul said, “ICMR-Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is a whole virion coronavirus vaccine approved for restricted use in an emergency by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) and since this vaccine works on the whole of the virus, this is our additional weapon against the virus. Simply put it would work even with mutations, that we are seeing in the virus.”

Dr. Paul also said about 12 countries have already shown specific interest in this indigenous vaccine with Bangladesh wanting to conduct clinical trials. “Qatar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives are among the countries following the vaccine closely,” he said.

Samiran Panda, who is part of the team working on Covaxin and head Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division, ICMR added that the vaccine has the potential to mount a wider immune response in the body as compared to any known vaccine currently available and hence offers better protection against mutation of COVID virus.

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“These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary regulatory response but not at the cost of safety and immunogenicity. Covaxin has been approved after due process and we respect the regulatory mechanism of the country and the rigour that it follows. Covaxin cleared safety and immunogenicity trails with good results — data of which is available in public domain. Countries including Bangladesh and Myanmar have shown keen interest in the vaccination,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking about the government now having to look at the vaccination schedule, K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India said India should follow the trial protocol on the basis of which regulatory approval was provided.

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“If the trial demonstrated over 50% efficacy for the first dose itself, then the regulator may approve a delayed second dose. On the other hand, if it required two doses a month apart to demonstrate 62% efficacy, that schedule should be adhered to. It is not clear how much protection was conferred by the first dose alone, in terms of a statistically defensible claim of over 50% protection against symptomatic COVID-19, which is the primary endpoint of the trial. In the absence of that information, any deviation from the pre-specified trial protocol would be scientifically indefensible,” he added.

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