Covishield emerges as first choice for states, Covaxin to be kept as a ‘buffer stock’

Delhi, Andhra, Telangana, Punjab will use Covishield, while Chhattisgarh has questioned the efficacy of Covaxin. Govt says vaccines were approved after they met the parameters.

Representational image of a Covid-19 vaccination dry run in Lucknow | Photo: ANI
Representational image of a Covid-19 vaccination dry run | Photo: ANI

New Delhi: The central government may have procured both Covishield and Covaxin for its vaccination drive, starting Saturday, but many states are planning to use the former as of now.

States like Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab are going to use Serum Institute of India’s Covishield to vaccinate their healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase, while keeping Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin as a “buffer stock”.

States like Chhattisgarh have also expressed concern over the lack of efficacy data for Covaxin. 

On 3 January, the Modi government granted Covaxin emergency use authorisation despite incomplete phase 3 trial data, sparking a controversy.

States also said since they have received fewer doses of Covaxin, they will anyway use Covishield first.

Asked that if Covishield is the default vaccine choice for many states, what was the point of giving out Covaxin in such inadequate numbers, NITI Aayog member (health) V.K. Paul told ThePrint, “Whatever vaccines are available have been supplied to states in the ratio of registered beneficiaries. The government has opened for both vaccines and we are proud of the fact that one of them is developed here.

“Whatever vaccine has met the parameters has been approved, this is just the starting. As the production scales up, systems will be built up and whoever qualifies should be given a chance,” he added.

Paul said that “even abroad in all democracies the way vaccination is happening is that you can’t choose what vaccine you get”.

Also read: Govt buys Covishield at Rs 200 and Covaxin at Rs 295 per dose, set to deliver across India

Delhi, Punjab & Maharashtra

Delhi has received 2,54,540 doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin.

A senior official in the health and family welfare department said: “Covishield will be the default option for now and if need arises, we’ll use Covaxin and vaccination centres won’t be given a choice.

“We don’t want anyone raising any concerns later so we will mostly go with Covishield first.”

Vaccine booths in Delhi’s 11 districts might get both Covishield and Covaxin. But if a booth gets Covishield, it will not get Covaxin later so as to avoid confusion, the official said.

She further said vaccines will be sent from cold store points to the booth based on random selection.

Punjab, meanwhile, has only received Covishield — 2,04,000 doses.

Rajesh Bhaskar, state programming officer for Covid-19, said: “We haven’t received Covaxin at all and hence we will of course be relying only on Covishield.” 

The Bombay Municipal Corporation too hasn’t received any Covaxin doses either, BMC officials told ThePrint.

Maharashtra has overall received 9.63 lakh doses of Covishield and another 20,000 doses of Covaxin, according to an official press release of the state health department.

Andhra, Telangana & Chhattisgarh

Andhra Pradesh has said since they have received fewer doses of Covaxin, they will prioritise Covishield now.

State Health Commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar said they have received 4.7 lakh doses of Covishield and 20,000 doses of Covaxin. 

“Since the percentage variation is anyway so much, we will prioritise the Covishield and will only be keeping Covaxin as buffer stock for now,” he told ThePrint. 

In Telangana as well, the plan is to use Covishield to vaccine healthcare workers in the first phase. 

“However, Covaxin might be used among some special groups such as senior politicians and government officials here,” a senior state health department official told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.

The official, however, added that since Covaxin was developed in the state capital Hyderabad, they have a lot of faith in its efficacy.

Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, meanwhile, has categorically declared that it is not in favour of using the home-grown Covaxin unless it completes the recommended testing process with absolute authentication and success.

State Health Minister T.S. Singh Deo has last week said it is “not safe” to use any vaccine, which remains in clinical trial mode, unless the safety and the details of all phases of testing with aftereffects are observed with confidence. 

Also read: How India’s regulatory pitfalls helped Covishield and Covaxin get rapid approval