As India gears up to launch the world’s largest immunisation drive, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan urged the public not to pay heed to anti-vaccine rumours and said the anti-Covid-19 shots will be free across the country.
“I want to appeal to people to not believe in any rumors. Our prime criteria in the vaccine trial is the safety and efficacy and nothing will be compromised… Different kinds of rumours were also spread during polio immunisation, but people took the vaccine and now India is polio-free,” Vardhan told reporters after reviewing the dry vaccination run at a government hospital in the capital.
“Not just in Delhi, it will be free across the country,” news agency ANI quoted Harsh Vardhan as saying when asked if the Covid-19 vaccine will be provided free of cost.
The dry run is being conducted in all states and union territories to test the linkages between planning and implementation as India prepares to roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Phase 1 immunisation in the coming days. The shot was recommended for emergency use approval by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on Friday. The SEC recommendation has been forwarded to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for final approval.
The application for the Oxford-AztraZeneca vaccine was filed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing the doses for India and other countries, while Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech had applied for emergency use authorisation for its Covaxin shot. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has asked Bharat Biotech to expedite volunteer recruitment for the ongoing clinical trial and recommended it may conduct interim efficacy analysis for further consideration of restricted emergency use approval for Covaxin.
While granting the restricted emergency use approval for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, the panel imposed certain regulatory provisions, including that the shot is indicated for active immunisation in individuals of 18 years or more and that it should be administered intramuscularly in two doses at an interval of 4 to 6 weeks. Further, the SII should submit safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity data from the ongoing clinical trials in the country and across the globe for review at the earliest.