Telangana postpones Covaxin roll-out

Decision after staff refuses to take vaccine that is on trial

Hyderabad: A quickly planned rollout of Covaxin, a Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by the city-based Bharat Biotech, was on Monday equally quickly pulled back without any explanation by the State health department authorities. Covaxin was to become a matter of pride for the state and government, being a ‘Made in Telangana’ vaccine.

The launch of the Covid-19 vaccination on January 16 in Telangana began with people getting jabs of Covishield vaccine, manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. Whereas Telangana, which received 20,000 doses of Covaxin, remained in cold storage at the State Vaccine Depot in Koti in the city.

Late Monday morning, the health department issued an invite to the media saying there would be a “rollout” of a Covid-19 vaccine at the office of the Director of Public Health at Koti in the afternoon. The guests of honour were to be health minister Etala Rajendar and IT and industries minister K.T. Rama Rao.

While the invite did not mention Covaxin being rolled out, it is self-evident this was the agenda as Covishield had already been rolled-out and was being used across the state for vaccination of healthcare personnel.

However, within an hour, the health department announced the vaccine rollout was being “postponed” before going into total silence on the matter throughout the day.

According to inside sources, one of the possible recipients of the first dose of Covaxin was to be Director of Public Health Dr G. Srinivasa Rao. It may be recalled that Director of Medical Educations Dr K. Ramesh Reddy had received a shot of Covishield on January 16.

Though everything was set for the “rollout” of Covaxin on Monday, the reason for the “postponement” were intelligence reports that the state government received from various parts of the state, of strong reluctance on part of several healthcare personnel to become part of a somewhat forced Phase III trial of a vaccine which had only an Emergency Use approval.

Across the country, anyone receiving Covaxin doses as part of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, are required to sign a three-page consent form, agreeing to be part of the trial and that they are doing so on their own accord and not under any duress from any quarter.

It may be recalled that the Government of India had approved the use of Covaxin as part of the vaccination drive as one under a “clinical trial mode”. This, it was learnt, was causing concern among potential recipients of this particular vaccine among some healthcare personnel in the state.

As per the action plan for vaccination, vaccine recipients do not have an option to choose between the two vaccines. It was learnt that the TRS government did not want the embarrassment of several potential recipients pulling out from taking the vaccine manufactured by a company based in Telangana.

However, there was no official word from Bharat Biotech throughout the day either on the “rollout” of a vaccine as announced by the health department or the subsequent decision to postpone the event.

By evening, it ended up that the only thing manufactured was a bit of embarrassment for all parties concerned.

Next Story