Former Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) epidemiologist Dr Lalitkant said, “To build the confidence of people in the vaccine, the IEC (information, education and communication) programme would be handy because not enough material is available on adverse events.”
Scientists pointed out that while pharmaceutical companies were trying to launch the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest, safety concerns over adverse reactions and efficacy were still prevalent.
“In September-October, a few Covid-19 vaccines in the phase-3 clinical trials were put on hold for serious effects. But very little information about the nature of adverse reactions is available,” said another expert, who recently retired from a national institute.
The head of National Expert Group on Covid-19 vaccination, Dr VK Paul, said they were hoping a vaccine would be finalised soon. He said any vaccines granted emergency or regular authorisation in the country would be safe and effective. He said their full data would be in public domain.
“As of now, the DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) has put the applications of vaccine manufacturers on hold for more data. While it decides on them, we shall be working on preparing for the rollout,” he told TOI.
Dr Lalitkant further added that in 2009-10 during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, there was again a race among vaccine manufacturing companies to produce a vaccine and countries scrambled to get vaccines. While India reported the first case of H1N1 in 2009, the government had then imported 1.5 million doses of the vaccine and also provided Rs 10 cr each to three vaccine manufacturers as advance market commitment for 6.25 lakh doses from each of the companies. He added that not only did we not use most of the doses of the imported vaccine but also failed to lift even a single vial of the vaccine worth Rs 30 cr ordered from Indian manufacturers.
One of the reasons he cites was the poor acceptance of the vaccine because of the safety concerns and even after making it compulsory for health workers only a few took them, he said. With the covid-19 vaccines under development, this mistake should not be repeated. “While the covid 19 vaccines are under development, the nature and extent of vaccine hesitancy must be assessed and addressed timely. An effective communication strategy is needed now to address the fears and uncertainties, said the infectious disease epidemiologist and independent consultant.