With Haryana health minister Anil Vij, who was administered a trial dose of Covaxin last month, testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, December 5, several questions are being raised on its efficacy and side effects. Covaxin is being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research.
The health minister, who was received the shot as part of phase III trials on November 20 in an Ambala hospital, took to Twitter on Saturday morning to declare his COVID-19 test result. “I have been tested Corona positive. I am admitted in Civil Hospital Ambala Cantt. All those who have come in close contact to me are advised to get themselves tested for corona,” he tweeted.
I have been tested Corona positive. I am admitted in Civil Hospital Ambala Cantt. All those who have come in close contact to me are advised to get themselves tested for corona.
— ANIL VIJ MINISTER HARYANA (@anilvijminister) December 5, 2020
Vij had volunteered for the third phase of trials of the COVID-19 vaccine which began in Haryana in November. His media coordinator, Vijender Chauhan reportedly said the minister was in Chandigarh on Friday afternoon and had reported fatigue later. “He got tested himself today morning and the result is positive. The staff will be tested today itself,” Chauhan said.
Meanwhile, several questions are now being raised over the efficacy of the indigenously developed vaccines which are under trial in the country. Responding to the report, eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “Haryana minister Anil Vij tests Covid-19 positive. He was administered Covaxin last month in phase 3 trials being done by Bharat Biotech & ICMR! Apart from efficacy, there are serious questions about side effects of Vaccines being fast tracked by govt.”
Haryana minister Anil Vij tests Covid-19 positive. He was administered Covaxin last month in phase 3 trials being done by Bharat Biotech & ICMR! Apart from efficacy, there are serious questions about side effects of Vaccines being fast tracked by govt https://t.co/LcQPCRD1AP
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) December 5, 2020
Twitter has been flooded with criticism and concerns over the vaccine. While the health minister test report shows the failure of the vaccine, others have pointed that he was yet to receive the second dose of the vaccine trial. Also it has been pointed out that it is still not known whether the minister was given a placebo shot or the vaccine.
The phase three trials began with a total of 26,000 people across 25 centres of the country. Bharat Biotech had said in a statement, “After successful completion of the interim analysis from the phase 1 and 2 clinical trials of Covaxin, Bharat Biotech received Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approval for phase 3 clinical trials in 26,000 participants in over 25 centres across India. This will be India’s first phase 3 efficacy study for a Covid-19 vaccine, and the largest such trial ever conducted in the country.”
So far, the vaccine candidates developed by Moderna and Pfizer have shown more than 90% efficacy. However, Dr. V.K. Paul, the head of the National Task Force for COVID-19, had earlier remarked that the Pfizer vaccine was not going to reach India any time soon. He also said that the big challenges of storage and distribution of the vaccine, which needs to be stored at a temperature of around -70 degrees Celsius, are being reviewed with its procurement dependent on their assessment. The same is the case for the Moderna Inc.’s vaccine, which also needs to be stored at -20 degrees Celsius.
As per a report in The Hindustan Times, top officials of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (ICMR-NICED) in Kolkata, have said that the results of the phase-III trial of COVID-19 vaccine candidate, Covaxin, will be available in November 2021. The interim report may be available by May 2021 at the earliest, they added.