The Indian company producing COVID-19 vaccine has warned that it may not be safe for people with weak immunity and medical conditions, such as allergies, fever and bleeding disorders, and suggested them to consult a doctor before getting a dose, and if possible, avoid it altogether.
Bharat Biotech asked the people receiving vaccinations to disclose their medical condition, medicines they are taking and any history of allergies. It said severe allergic reactions among vaccine recipients may include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, rapid heartbeat, body rashes, dizziness and weakness.
The locally produced vaccine, Covaxin, became controversial after the Indian government allowed its use without disclosing reports of experiments and how effective it is. Tens of thousands of people have been given the shot in the past three days after India started immunizing healthcare workers in one of the world’s largest mass-vaccination campaigns.
Indian authorities hope to vaccinate 300 million people, a quarter of the country’s population. Of them, 30 million are doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, followed by 270 million people who either are over 50 years of age or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
India approved the emergency use of two vaccines: one developed by British AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University, and the other by Bharat Biotech. The Indian drugs regulator took the step without publishing information about the latter’s efficacy.
Bharat Biotech has still not published data on its vaccine’s effectiveness but said it is complying with clinical trial guidelines.
The regulator maintains that Covaxin is safe and that it authorized the vaccine’s use in the belief that it could be more effective in tackling a more contagious variant first detected in Britain. The regulator and the company have said efficacy data would be published after ongoing late clinical trials conclude.
Most hospitals in India are inoculating healthcare workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield. But uptake in those hospitals using the Bharat Biotech vaccine has been relatively low, health officials said.
Ironically, many doctors in New Delhi hospitals have declined to get the Bharat Biotech vaccine shot.
India is second only to the US in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 10.5 million. The country ranks third in the number of reported deaths, behind the U.S. and Brazil, with over 152,000.