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Covaxin And Covishield: What To Know About These Two Approved Vaccines In India

The mass vaccination drive with the two approved COVID-19 vaccines-Covishield and Covaxin-is all set to begin tomorrow,16 January. These two vaccines have been approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the body for the regulation of pharmaceutical and medical devices. They are approved for the restricted emergency-use in the country.

The approval of the vaccines has, however, erupted many controversies as people have not been informed about the trial results of Covaxin and Covishield, before approving them for mass vaccination.

In this article, we will discuss the details of the approved vaccines, as explained in a joint press statement by the Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute.

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What To Know About Covaxin?

1. Covaxin is developed by India-based biotechnology company Bharat Biotech Limited in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research (National Institute of Virology, Pune). It is also India's first indigenously developed vaccine against COVID-19.

2. The vaccine has been developed after successful clinical trials in animal models such as guinea pigs, mice and rabbit with good immune response.

3. Covaxin is composed of inactivated whole-virion of COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2. [1] In an inactive state, the virus is not able to infect or replicate in the body but will help the immune system recognise them to create antibodies accordingly.

4. According to researchers, Covaxin is formulated with a new adjuvant containing imidaquizoquinoline class TLR7/8 agonist adsorbed to Algel. [2]

5. This adjuvant is a way to develop a safe and effective vaccine that not only helps with providing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 but also with a wide range of immune response.

6. During the trial period, the vaccine has shown high antigen binding and neutralizing antibodies abilities that not only bind to the virus but also block the infection.

7. This vaccine is an intramuscular injection (given deep into the muscles) containing around 0.5 mL of three formulations of the inactivated COVID-19 virus: BBV152A, BBV152B and BBV152C.

8. The vaccine will be given in two doses and there will be a gap of 28 days between the doses

9. Temperature for storage and transportation of Covaxin is 2-8° degrees Celsius.

10. According to the Health Ministry statement so far on vaccine procurement in India, the centre has procured around 55 lakhs doses of Covaxin from its manufacturer (Bharat Biotech).

11. Out of 55 lakhs, 38.5 lakhs doses will be distributed at a cost of Rs. 295/dose (excluding taxes), while the remaining 16.5 lakh doses will be given free of cost. So the total cost of 55 lakhs doses will be Rs 206/dose.

12. According to the fact sheet shared by the Indian Government, the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women, children under 18 years of age (except for some with underlying conditions) and lactating mother.

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What To Know About Covishield?

1. It is developed by Jenner Institute of the Oxford University in collaboration with the British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc. The India-based Serum Institute of India (Pune) is their manufacturing and trial partner.

2. It was the first vaccine approved for public use while Covaxin was still under review.

3. Unlike Covaxin, it is not prepared by the real inactive COVID-19 virus strain, but from a weakened version of another virus called adenovirus, which is known to cause common cold in chimpanzees and has the genetic material similar to COVID-19 spike protein.

4. Spike proteins are a part of COVID-19 virus through which it enters the body of the host.

5. The weakened virus strain of adenovirus was genetically modified to prepare a non-replicating viral vector vaccine i.eCovishield.

6. According to researchers and manufacturers of Covishield, it includes the following ingredients: L-Histidine, Magnesium chloride hexahydrate, L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, Ethanol, Polysorbate 80, Sodium chloride, Sucrose, Disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA) and Water for injection.

7. The spike protein genetic material will help the body recognise the pathogen and create suitable antibodies to neutralise the COVID-19.

8. Covishield will also be given in two doses with the second dose been given between 4-6 weeks. After the 14 days of the second dose, the effectiveness of the vaccine will begin.

9. Temperature for storage and transportation of Covishield is 2-8° degrees Celsius.

10. According to the Health Ministry statement, the centre is procuring around 1.1 crore doses of Covishield from its manufacturer Serum Institute.

11. The cost of the vaccine will be Rs. 200/dose.

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Efficacy Of Covaxin And Covishield

Both the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective to be used by the public of India, as given out in a statement by the Ministry of Health. However, according to the clinical trial data, the overall efficacy of Covishield after combining the results of both the doses is 70 per cent. Also, the vaccine has passed the phase 3 trial or say, the final trial.

On the other hand, Covaxin's total efficacy is yet to be evaluated as it is still under review on the phase 3 trial. However, based on the results of the first two trials conducted on around 800 subjects, it is said to be safe and effective with a robust immune response. The pending results of the phase-3 trial of Covaxin have also created dilemma in measuring its efficacy.

To Conclude

Both SARS-CoV-2 vaccines; Covaxin and Covishield are aimed to provide a broad spectrum of immune response and to recognise the spike protein of the virus. According to researchers, both the vaccines may be well-trained to generate suitable antibodies against COVID-19 and neutralise them.

As far as the side effects of these two vaccines are concerned, no matter it's a chaperone virus, dead virus or live attenuated virus, vaccines are bound to have minimal side effects. But people should not be alarmed by this as only a small percentage of people experience symptoms such as slight fever, mild headache or sore throat, which can easily be treated with medications.