The race for a Covid vaccine may have ended, but the finishing line is still a blur due to the new confusion over vial preference. A day before the state kicked off the vaccination drive, inoculating 2,684 healthcare workers on the inaugural day, the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors’ Association (TNGDA), comprising 20,000 healthcare professionals, had nudged doctors to opt for the Covishield jab, saying Covaxin is still awaiting results of its Phase 3 trials.
Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, has, on its part, been getting people to sign on a consent form in which it has promised compensation in case of serious side effects. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy has assured the people that the “fear will fade away gradually”. The Centre has all along been insisting that both vaccines carry the same weight, but there seems to be a clear consensus on Covishield being the first among equals. Earlier Dr T S Selvavinayagam, Tamil Nadu Director of Public Health, had echoed the Centre’s line when he said that no one can choose the vaccine brand.
The TNGDA took the call after uncomfortably shuffling in its seats over the vials of Covaxin, echoing a concern of the medical fraternity across the country. The association consulted three specialists because of this niggling doubt and later submitted its recommendation to the state executive committee, requesting doctors and healthcare workers to choose the “right” vaccine as they are in the high-risk category. “While our circular is advisory in nature, we do feel that it is much better to go for a vaccine whose efficacy is well-proven through a large-scale clinical trial,” N Ravishankar, secretary of TNGDA, had said.
Given the unease, should the government go ahead and administer a vaccine the receiver is uncomfortable with? There is no problem with issuing advisories on public health, but one cannot dictate human psychology through force or warnings. Reassurance is a large part of treating any ailment. The pandemic has already wreaked havoc across the globe, both at the physical and mental levels. So the authorities should take into account the latter and consider giving people a choice over vaccines.