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Covaxin Or Covishield? Here’s A Simple Primer Of The Facts You Should Know

Posted: April 29, 2021
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Covaxin or Covishield? This is the question everyone has on their minds. And what about the new Sputnik vaccine from Russia that might be available?

The second wave of COVID has hit India hard and makes the need for universal vaccination even more pressing. However, a question hounds most of us, and is often difficult to answer- Which vaccine is better, Covaxin or Covishield?

Articles and research studies are extensive yet very complicated. So here’s a simple breakdown to help jumpstart your decision making.

According to research conducted by Pharmeasy, both vaccines, Covaxin or Covishield, are overall safe and effective. Further, both of them follow a two-dose regimen, administered 6 weeks apart, and are both intramuscular vaccines- a technique used to deliver a medication deep into the muscles. This allows the medication to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly.

Covaxin or Covishield – key differences

~ Covaxin has been jointly developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV). Covishield has been developed by the Oxford-AstraZeneca and is being manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

Covaxin can be given to people aged 12 years and above while Covishield has been approved for people aged 18 years and above.

Covaxin or Covishield – how are they prepared?

Covishield is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus or the adenovirus that is found in chimpanzees, and the COVID-19 antigen fixed to it stimulates the immune system. Covaxin is made in a more traditional manner, using attenuated and killed coronaviruses, and teaches the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Efficacy

Covaxin is effective against UK and Brazilian variants while Covishield is effective against UK variant and is being tested against the Brazilian variant

Covishield that has been rolled out in India has an overall efficacy of 70 per cent. Covaxin has shown a 78 percent efficacy in the second interim analysis, and 100 per cent against ‘severe Covid-19 disease’.

Covaxin or Covishield – side effects

Covaxin has shown less side effects since vaccination programs began in India, thus it seems to be preferred by citizens and the medical community. According to Hari Kishan Gonuguntla, an Interventional Pulmonologist at Yashoda Hospitals, Covishield has found to have severe allergic reactions compared to Covaxin.

However, both are medically tested to be safe for use.

Note: The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been cleared for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women, but at the moment, in India, for both Covaxin or Covishield, the government is proceeding with caution in case of pregnant or breastfeeding women. So make sure to inform the health care professionals before you take the vaccine.

Common side effects of Covaxin

  • injection site pain, injection site swelling, weakness in the injection arm,  injection site redness and/or injection site itching
  • Stiffness and/or body ache
  • headache, fever, malaise, weakness, rashes, nausea, vomiting

There is a slim chance of a severe allergic reaction, the signs of which include difficulty in breathing, swelling of face and throat, fast heart-beat, rashes all over the body, dizziness and weakness, and needs immediate medical attention.

Who should avoid Covaxin

  • Those who have any history of allergies, fever, bleeding disorder
  • are on a blood thinner
  • are immune-compromised or are on a medicine that affects your immune system
  • are pregnant or are breastfeeding

Common side effects of Covishield

  • tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given,
  • generally feeling unwell, chills or feeling feverish, headache or joint aches.

Extreme side effects include primarily similar allergic reactions as listed for Covaxin, and need immediate medical attention.

Who should avoid Covishield

Sputnik V from Russia

Imported, fully ready-to-use foreign vaccines like Sputnik V will also become available likely by 1st of May in India.

Key facts about it include-

  • The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology,
  • The efficacy was found to be 91.6 percent after three phases of trials
  • Sputnik V has a regime in which both doses of the vaccine are slightly different versions of the same vaccine and are aimed at providing longer protection
  • Mild, including flu-like symptoms, pain at the injection site and weakness or low energy, were most reported adverse effects.

While we must research as much as we can to make an informed decision, it is very important that we consult our doctors before getting that first shot.

Distribution of Vaccines

India’s vaccine distribution network is operated through four government medical store depots (GMSDs)-

  • Karnal
  • Mumbai
  • Chennai
  • Kolkata

GMSDs procure vaccines from the manufacturers. About 53 state vaccine stores get their supplies either from these GMSDs or directly from manufacturers. The state vaccine stores then distribute the vaccines to regional, district and sub-district level cold chain points via insulated vans.

Registration and getting vaccinated – protocol for Covaxin or Covishield

The vaccination drive began on 16th January for the healthcare and frontline staff and now has gradually opened registration for the 18-44 age group. To get vaccinated one has to follow the registration protocol, which is as follows-

Registration

The government of India has provided two online portals for registration, which is the first step to get vaccinated- Co-Win portal and the Arogya Setu app.

After registration, which requires a phone number and a valid photo identification document (for example the aadhar card or driver’s license), one gets access to nearby primary health centres, and private and government hospitals which are providing vaccines, along with a schedule of available appointments

On-site registration is also possible, but at the site of inoculation, proper identity documentation must be carried, whether you are registered already or not.

Cost of vaccination

Vaccination is free at government centres, and paid (at a pre-fixed charge with the limit set at Rs.250) in private centres.

This is despite the actual cost of the vaccine from the makers.

Serum institute, at the time of writing, is placing the price of procuring Covishield (pre dose) at Rs. 300 for state hospitals and Rs. 600 for private hospitals. Bharat Biotech is asking (per dose) for Rs.600 from state hospitals and Rs.1,200 from private actors. These prices are at the moment, subject to negotiation by these buyers.

Vaccination status certification

After the first dose, one will get a provisional certificate and after the second shot, the final certificate will be given, both will be available online. However, print outs can be collected from vaccination centres.

Covaxin or Covishield, some problems persist in the strategy

In the few months of the vaccination drive, disparities are already being noticed. There is also the urban vs rural divide with there being a logistics lag in the vaccine reaching deep into some rural areas.

Indian states and the private have been left to figure out how to achieve universal immunisation as the Centre has committed to providing free vaccines to only 300 million of the total population. Further, the risk of vaccine shortage already looms large, and is predicted to last for at least a few months.

Though healthcare and frontline workers are expending all their energies at providing vaccines and battling the second wave, it is predicted that the vaccine will only be totally easy to get at the market by 2022. However, the aim is that the virus will get mitigated by achieving herd immunity.

Reading List for Further Details-

Factsheet on Covishield.

Factsheet on Covaxin.

Image source: YouTube

Check with your doctor first

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