Covaxin has only 10% takers nationally; less than 1% uptake in 12 States, Union Territories

As on February 21, the uptake of Covaxin across India is just about 10%. Except Sikkim, where the percentage uptake of Covaxin compared with Covishield is 1%, the uptake in 12 States and Union Territories is far less than 1%. At 27%, Gujarat has reported the highest uptake of Covaxin.

As on February 21, the uptake of Covaxin across India is just about 10%, as per data shared by the Health Ministry. Covaxin has been developed and manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR. Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India accounts for the remaining 90% of vaccine administered. Of the 10.6 million doses administered across India as on February 21, 10,37,565 are Covaxin.

On January 3, the Indian regulator approved Covaxin for restricted use “under clinical trial mode” as a matter of “abundant caution” even when no interim data of phase-3 trial was available. Post-approval, a dozen scientists had issued a statement demanding for efficacy data before vaccination could begin.

Nil to a few takers  

While Chhattisgarh is the only State where not a single dose of Covaxin has been administered so far, three Union Territories too — Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Daman & Diu — have not reported any uptake of Covaxin as on February 21.

Many States and Union Territories have reported very little uptake of Covaxin compared with Covishield. For instance, Punjab has administered Covaxin only to 91 people, while Goa has immunised just one person with Covaxin. The other States with low uptake of Covaxin are Nagaland (4 people), Mizoram (4), Lakshadweep (4), Chandigarh (9), Manipur (29), Tripura (30), Ladakh (31), Himachal Pradesh (38), Meghalaya (49), Arunachal Pradesh (54), Uttarakhand (69), and Sikkim (128). Except Sikkim where the percentage uptake of Covaxin compared with Covishield is 1%, the uptake in all the other 12 States and Union Territories is far less than 1%.

Seemingly high but actually low 

With 8,332 Covaxin doses administered in Maharashtra, the absolute number might appear high but in percentage terms it accounts for just 0.95% of all vaccines administered; Covishield doses administered stands at 8,63,235. Similarly, in the case of Tamil Nadu, the absolute number of Covaxin doses administered stands at 4,421, while for Covishield it is 2,51,944. In percentage terms, the uptake of Covaxin in the State is just 1.72%. Even Karnataka has administered Covaxin on 5,873 people but the percentage uptake is just 1% as the number of people who have opted for Covishield is 5,41,714.

Other States such as Telangana have reported slightly higher coverage using Covaxin. At 13.5% (Covaxin – 37,473 and Covishield – 2,40,068) Telangana has better uptake of Covaxin among the southern States, while Kerala is at 12.8% (Covaxin – 52,355 and Covishield – 3,54,743) and Andhra Pradesh is nearly 10% (Covaxin – 41,740 and Covishield – 3,76,894). Odisha has achieved 7.9% (Covaxin – 33,428 and Covishield – 3,86,064), West Bengal 5.6% (Covaxin – 35,367 and Covishield – 5,89,683), and Bihar 5% (Covaxin – 26,109 and Covishield – 4,93,678).

Higher uptake in some States

At 27%, Gujarat has reported the highest uptake of Covaxin (Covaxin – 2,19,211 and Covishield – 5,91,762). The other States with high uptake of Covaxin are Uttar Pradesh with 21.3% (Covaxin – 1,65,255 and Covishield – 6,07,984), Rajasthan with 21% (Covaxin – 1,65,255 and Covishield – 6,07,984), and Madhya Pradesh with 18.6% (Covaxin – 1,17,779 and Covishield – 5,14,469).

“The difference in coverage is a function of differential allocation of the Covaxin doses to different States. This is further confounded by delayed communication of the information and lack of data on efficacy,” says epidemiologist Dr. Giridhara Babu and member of the Karnataka COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee.

“I would not call this is hesitancy because most people are not aware of the availability of the vaccine, and at the point of delivery, there is no option to choose a vaccine. I know of doctors who wanted to take Covaxin if it was made available to them,” he adds.

Covaxin supply to States and Union Territories

In response to a Parliamentary question, the Health Ministry had on February 5 provided details of Covishield and Covaxin distributed to several States. According to the answer provided, as on February 1, nearly 2.6 million doses were distributed to 19 States and Union Territories. At 1,89,920, Tamil Nadu was provided the most number of Covaxin doses (Covishield supply was little over one million).

The other States that got large Covaxin supplies include Telangana and Rajasthan (1,72,960), Maharashtra and Delhi (1,70,400), Odisha (1,69,760), Assam (1,68,160), Karnataka (1,66,240), Uttar Pradesh (1,65,280), Andhra Pradesh (1,64,320), Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (1,50,400).

Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, and Kerala were each provided with the lowest number (37,760) of Covaxin doses.

On January 10, in a tweet, T.S. Singh Deo, the Health Minister of Chhattisgarh said: “We do not support the use of Covaxin in the vaccination process in Chhattisgarh for one simple reason — it is not safe to use any vaccine unless it has completed the recommended testing process with absolute authentication and success.”

All vaccines approved for emergency use by regulators, including Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have been based on interim analysis of phase-3 trials. The phase-3 trials of these vaccines are still under way.

Published in The Hindu on February 22, 2021