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India unlikely to halt use of Covishield

India is unlikely to halt using Covishield vaccine, which has been flagged by many European countries, as it continues to be the mainstay of India’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. Putting it off even temporarily could disrupt the entire programme, sources in the know said on Sunday.

However, authorities said they are not averse to idea of evaluating all serious adverse events following immunization (AEFI) more stringently in the light of concerns which forced as many as nine European countries to briefly suspend the vaccine, which is jointly developed by Oxford University and pharma giant AstraZeneca. Ireland became the latest European country to halt its use on Sunday.

In India, the same vaccine is produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and is marketed under the brand name Covishield. Covishield is used for nearly 80 per cent of over 2.6 crore Covid-19 vaccinations carried out so far in the country.

N K Arora, an advisor to the National AEFI committee on Saturday quoted as saying that all aspects relating serious AEFI will be monitored closely to determine the causality aspects of both Covid vaccines administered in India — Covishield and Covaxin. According to him, there were so far 234 serious AEFIs in India and 71 deaths among those received vaccinations.

The European countries decided to suspend the administration of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine till the time the national health agencies independently examined whether the vaccine is linked to development of blood clots, which were seen at least in a few people received the vaccination.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca however, denied the link. “An analysis of our safety data of more than 10 million records has shown on evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country with Covid-19 vaccine of AstraZeneca. In fact, the observed number of these types of events is significantly lower in those vaccinated that what would be expected among the general population,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

Some States in India, however, said they are keeping their fingers crossed on the issue of Covishield.

When contacted, a senior official of AP Health Department said, “As of now we have not received any directive from the Centre. We will have to continue the vaccination programme as usual,” he said.

Any hasty decision or unsubstantiated information can lead to panic among those who had already taken the vaccine and may discourage those who are yet to take it, he added.

A senior doctor in a Hyderabad-based hospital said adverse reaction of any vaccine may be different in India and abroad to an extent due to diversity in population. “This needs to be studied properly,” he added.

Meanwhile, surge in new Covid-19 cases continued to be a big worry for health authorities with the daily countrywide count for Saturday coming in at 25,320, the first time when the 25,000 mark has been breached and marking the steepest single day rise this year.

The enormity of the problem can be gauged from the fact that daily new cases tally has been on a steep climb this week starting Monday at 15,388, followed by 17,921 for Tuesday; 22,854 for Wednesday; 23,285 for Thursday and 24,882 for Friday, data available with Health Ministry showed. The Hindu BusinessLine

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