India has rolled out its vaccination drive today and the 3 crore health and frontline workers are the first to be getting vaccinated in various parts of the country. The world’s biggest vaccination programme has launched with two vaccines manufactured in the country – Covishield and Covaxin. While the nation has all come together to make it a successful drive, ensuring the safety of the health workers first, is it really a safe move to give vaccines to the health workers first who have been the strongest fighters and the biggest protectors against the coronavirus? Let’s take a look at how both the vaccines work and how risking the safety of the doctors and other health workers could just be a bigger risk than imagined.Also Read - Govt Plans Staggered Reopening of Schools As COVID Cases Decline, Likely to Issue Guidelines Soon: Report

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The ministry has sent out both the vaccines to all the vaccination centres in the country. The Covishield vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. It has been manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institue of India and among the two vaccines, this one has emerged as the better and the most promising one, majorly because of its cost and because it can stay stable for six months at standard refrigerator temperature in India. Also Read - MHA Extends Coronavirus Guidelines Till February 28, Asks States Not to Let Guard Down

How Covishield works?

The vaccine uses a common cold virus called adenovirus that attaches to cells and make the coronavirus spike protein. Once the formation occurs inside the cells, the immune system is alerted and a defence mechanism is created by the system to attack the real coronavirus when a person catches the infection. The vaccine is believed to be around 70 per cent effective.

All about Covaxin that is still in its Phase 3

The second vaccine that India is relying on is Covaxin which is developed by Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It is based on the traditional vaccine formation methods in which a whole, inactivated virus is injected into a body that triggers the immune system.

Now, the biggest doubt with Covaxin is that it is still in the process of undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials that is done to find out the efficacy of the vaccine. All other vaccines including Covishield and even the vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna have been proven in Phase 3 clinical trials but not Covaxin. The trials are still underway and many health experts have questioned the urgency of putting this vaccine to use for people, especially for the health workers who form the backbone of the country in a pandemic situation. Covaxin still has only limited, ‘clinical trial approval.’

Considering the same, the government has ordered only half as many doses of Covaxin as Covishield. This means that more people are being vaccinated with Covishield than Covaxin. However, no beneficiary has any say in choosing one vaccine over another. Vaccinating the health workers means that our doctors are the first batch of citizens getting tested for both the benefits and the risks. Can India afford this risk?