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New hope: India ready for Covid vaccines

Readers' Speak: avian flu outbreak in India
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The Telegraph   |   Published 06.01.21, 03:19 AM

Sir — It is heartening to note that India is ready to use two coronavirus vaccines for emergency cases. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, made in this country by the Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are thus going to play a key role in the vaccination programme. Covishield, for one, can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making its transportation easier and cheaper than, say, the Pfizer vaccine.

India’s experience of conducting general elections on a large-scale can come in handy for carrying out this massive programme without too many hiccups. But since the approvals were fast-tracked on account of emergency requirements, there is need for close monitoring of the entire process. Full cooperation of the people can be achieved only by promoting proper knowledge and right information about the vaccine. People must be made aware that the vaccine is an important weapon in the war against the coronavirus. But it is not the only weapon. Precautions to stop the spread of the virus must be continued.

D.V.G. Sankararao,
Nellimarla, Andhra Pradesh

Sir — The new year could not have started on a brighter note as the drug regulatory body of India recommended the Covishield vaccine for emergency use on the first day (“Oxford vaccine cleared in India, wait for others”, Jan 2). Now, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, along with the one manufactured by Bharat Biotech, can be administered to around 300 million people. When more vaccines are approved, one hopes that better coverage for the entire country can be achieved. But considering the population and the complexities of our nation, the government would do well to pull up its socks so as not to repeat the mistake of last year, where it failed miserably in providing proper public healthcare when the pandemic broke out. 

Since the Serum Institute of India has itself suggested that it can produce 100 million doses per month, people should be ready for the long haul. They should be patient and follow all protocol as they have been doing for the past one year. One should wait for patients who need it most to get the vaccine dose first. The government must work closely with the key stakeholders in this case to ensure seamless inoculation.  

Bal Govind,
Noida

Sir — While the Centre is quite euphoric about the drug regulatory authority approving conditional use of two vaccines, concerns expressed by a host of independent experts, questioning the process of approval of Covaxin in spite of pending efficacy data from its Phase 3 trials, cannot be brushed aside. 

Efficacy data are an indication of how effective the vaccine is in preventing the virus attack. One expert has pointed out that the regulator’s own draft guidance underlines the importance of safety data. According to another expert, even emergency use authorization requires efficacy data. In effect, they have raised questions about the way the approval has been rushed through without adequate thought on the part of the regulatory body, based simply on the recommendations of the expert panel. Such action could lead to people losing confidence in the regulatory system that affects millions of lives.

Scientists also seem concerned about the regulatory authority’s silence on the mechanisms through which it would continue to review the performance of these vaccines (“Vaccine review method riddle”, Jan 4). The government must address these issues at once. The drum-beating over the approval of the vaccines might have temporarily drowned out the sound and fury of farmers at the threshold of the national capital, but it would be imprudent of the Narendra Modi-led government to think that it can sustain this effect without offering more clarity.

S.K. Choudhury,
Bangalore

Safe flight

Sir — India is a treat for bird-watchers especially in winter, as avians from across the borders land up in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bengal. But this time their trips could be cut short by the sudden outbreak of a contagion. Recently, hundreds of migratory birds were found dead at a lake in Himachal Pradesh on account of avian influenza. The flu has been spotted in three other states in India. A lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 worked for humans. But it is difficult to regulate the free flight of birds. Urgent steps must be taken to ensure the safe return of these winged guests.

Shraddha Sen,
Calcutta



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