Healthcare and other frontline workers involved in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic must not doubt the vaccines, the government said on Tuesday. India is using two vaccines - Covishield and Covaxin - and concerns about "adverse events" following immunisation are unfounded, said two senior government officials.
Government think tank NITI Aayog's members along with top medical experts have requested the people eligible for vaccination not to fall for rumours on safety. They added that minor adverse effects are common and should not deter people from inoculation.
"A lot of efforts have gone into making the vaccines. If our healthcare workers, especially doctors and nurses are declining it (vaccination), then it's very upsetting. We never know what form this pandemic could take, how big it could get, so please get vaccinated," said Dr said VK Paul, Member - Health, NITI Aayog, at a press conference in Delhi.
"The whole world is clamouring for a vaccine. If we still decline then it is a matter of sadness... We have to start non-COVID services. Those who are fortunate to receive the vaccine should not refuse it," Paul said.
Paul, who took a shot of the Bharat Biotech's Covaxin on Saturday, said India has a breather from COVID-19 and it is time to vaccinate as many as possible.
Union Health Ministry said that the adverse events following immunisation make up 0.18 per cent of the total vaccinations and only 0.002 per cent cases have ended in hospitalisation. India has since Saturday vaccinated more than 630,000 people, the fastest in the world in doing so, officials said.
Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, while referring to a medical term about expected reactions to a vaccine, said, "Concerns about adverse events following immunisation are unfounded and insignificant. We are in a situation of a lot of comfort. These two vaccines are safe. There is no undue reactogenicity."
Centre has asked states -- Punjab, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu -- with less than 40 per cent coverage vaccination to take steps to ramp up the number of sessions. Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Goa are already holding vaccination sessions twice a week.
The Health Ministry clarified that the decision to provide the two COVID-19 vaccines -- Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute of India; and Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech -- to states was taken based on supplies.
The final decision on which of the vaccines will go to which session was left entirely up to the states. "Micromanagement in such matters can be done better by the states," Bhushan added.
While India has cleared both Covishield and Covaxin, people can't decide which of the two they want to take.
Bhushan also said that the follow up on adverse events post-vaccination is a passive exercise in case a person is given Covishield and the onus of reporting such events is on the beneficiary.
However, in the case of Covaxin, a proactive follow up is done by the doctors since the approval has been given for restricted use in clinical trial mode. Bhushan added that in case of any adverse event that is caused by the Covaxin, the cost of hospitalisation will be borne by the authorities.
More than 6.31 lakh people have been vaccinated in India till today, as per the government data on Day 4. No cases of severe or serious adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) were reported from any state on Tuesday, said the government.
Till Monday, 580 cases of adverse reactions were observed with seven people hospitalised. Two have died also but neither deaths are related to vaccines.
The World Health Organisation defines AEFI as any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunisation and does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of the vaccine. The AEFI percentage is 0.18 per cent, the government said.
In the last 24 hours, 10,064 fresh COVID-19 cases were reported, the lowest in seven months. So far, India has reported more than 1 crore cases and over 1.52 lakh deaths.