The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to include civic-run schools and gymkhanas as Covid-19 vaccination points to provide faster and better accessibility to immunization for citizens. In the meantime, six volunteers who were participating in the clinical trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19, Covishield, at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital in Parel, Mumbai, have dropped out. However, at the BYL Nair Hospital, which is another center, all volunteers have participated in the trial. At KEM Hospital, a total of 101 people had participated in the trial which began on September 26 in Mumbai. The hospitals started administering the dosage in the latter half of October. But when called for the second dose that was to be administered 28 days later, only 95 returned. It is a voluntary process; no one can force them if they don’t want to participate.
An expert committee convened by the US Food and Drug Administration voted heavily in favor of recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use approval. The final voting tally was 17 in favor, four against, and one abstention. The committee was tasked with answering whether, “based on the totality of scientific evidence available, do the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine outweigh its risk for use in individuals 16 years of age and older?” The vote by the independent experts and researchers, including infectious disease specialists, biostatisticians, and other scientists, isn’t binding but the FDA is expected to follow the recommendation within the coming days. Britain, Canada, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia have already approved the vaccine, the first in the world to complete a large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial. Russian and Chinese vaccines are already being administered on a large scale, but without having completed comparable clinical trials. The full results of the trial, which included nearly 44,000 people, were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, another major milestone.
At Nair hospital, 148 volunteers have participated in the clinical trial of the same vaccine and all volunteers have completed both the dosages. Both the hospitals have completed administering the two doses last week, and are now monitoring the immune responses and health of the participants. So far, no one has reported any adverse effects. The trial duration is 180 days. Recently, a 40-year-old man from Chennai who had participated in the trial complained of developing cognitive issues after taking the vaccine. However, the hospital had no information on why these six volunteers dropped out.
Expecting the roll-out of the vaccine next year, BMC plans to immunize one crore of the city’s population in the first phase of the immunization drive. Around 400 schools and gymkhanas under the civic body will be roped in along with medical colleges, peripheral hospitals, and dispensaries for the purpose. They are planning to start vaccination centers at tertiary and secondary care centers. They also planned to keep schools and gymkhanas under BMC ready if we need more centers. Based on the directives of the Union health ministry, the civic body has started preparing the blueprint for the vaccine distribution. BMC has been holding regular meetings with senior health officers, including deans of medical colleges over the vaccination drive.
In Mumbai, around 1.25 lakh public and private medical staffers will be provided the first dosage of the vaccine. BMC has already registered their phone and email IDs. Once it receives the vials, each beneficiary will be informed on SMS about the nearby location and time of the vaccination. Once removed from the cold storage, a vial can sustain for around 10 hours. Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has cautioned against the hype about vaccines which are undergoing clinical trials. The safety of the vaccine has to be tested widely with a large number of volunteers across the globe in different categories such as age groups, gender, race, continents, and climate conditions. Any vaccine which is not tested fully with such third-stage clinical trials is not safe. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine (and Moderna’s) uses bits of genetic code to cause an immune response and is called an mRNA vaccine. It does not alter human cells but merely presents the body with instructions to build immunity to Covid. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless virus altered to look a lot more like the pandemic virus. Vaccines sometimes contain other ingredients, like aluminum, that make the vaccine stable or more effective. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defence against serious infections. Covid vaccines appear to stop people from getting very sick and could save lives. It is not yet clear how much protection vaccines might give in terms of stopping people from spreading Covid. If they can do this well, vaccinating enough people would stamp out the disease.