Substandard COVID Vaccine

Ali Sukhanver- - 
No doubt the Covid-19 has given a very hard and tough time to almost all the countries and all the nations. Millions of people have lost their lives and millions are still fighting the horrible impacts of this cruel pandemic. Moreover the world is facing a very painful economic disaster too as an aftermath of this brutal epidemic. But it is something very encouraging that in spite of facing huge losses at the hands of this killer, the world is trying all its best to counter the long-term damages caused by this disease and stop its further spread in the days to come. Certainly the efforts of the countries like UK and US must be esteemed high in this context. Unfortunately at this very critical juncture of time, there are some countries which are trying to get every possible benefit out of this calamity by doing ‘business’ and by earning more and more.
According to the New York Times, “The University of Oxford partnered with the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca to develop and test a corona virus vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 or AZD1222. Clinical trials found that the vaccine had an efficacy of 82.4 percent when two doses were given 12 weeks apart. Despite some uncertainty over trial results, Britain authorized the vaccine for emergency use in December and India authorized a version of the vaccine called Covishield on 3rd January 2021.” The Oxford, AstraZeneca vaccine is a Non-Replicating Viral Vector type of vaccine that aims to protect against COVID-19. It is administered through intramuscular injection. In India the Serum Institute of India (SII) is producing and supplying this vaccine. The Serum Institute of India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker and it has licensed the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University. This vaccine is being marketed as COVISHIELD for low-and middle-income countries. Unfortunately the prepared vaccine failed in giving the required rather expected results.
According to the media reports, last week one million doses of this vaccine landed in South Africa and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks but the South African government has recently asked SII to take back the sent one million doses because of its poor effectiveness. Moreover, the South African government has put on hold use of Indian AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in its vaccination program: says the Economic Times in a recent report. The Serum Institute has yet not given any comment in response to the action taken by the government of South Africa.  The government has decided to start vaccinating health workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine made in India. On the other hand the government of India has rejected the concerns raised by the government of the South Africa. Vinod Kumar Paul, a top Indian vaccine official, said defending his government on substandard vaccine, “Our vaccination programme is robust and valid, and I assure you that we are going ahead with it, not worried at the moment. We will intensify our surveillance and we will be watching other developments in due course.” In 2017 the WHO prepared a report which said that India is a major player in counterfeit pharmaceutical manufacturing as the country is the world’s largest producer of generic drugs. The report said that one in ten medicines is substandard. Substandard, counterfeit or falsified medicines may be expired, contaminated, have substituted or inappropriate quantities of active ingredients, or bear misleading packaging and labels. It is often difficult to determine whether this is the result of production errors or deliberate action. Antibiotics, anti-malarial, birth control pills, cough syrup and painkillers are some of the most common counterfeit drugs.
A few years back some incidences of illness due to consumption of a cough syrup were reported in Paraguay and Pakistan. The case was referred to researchers for further inquiry who reached the conclusion that the most active ingredient used in the syrup Dextro methorphan was imported from India. It was also brought to light that the raw material used in making of Dextromet horphan was contaminated with levo-methorphan, a drug five times stronger than morphine. In another case, involvement of an Indian company was traced when an individual suffering from HIV in Africa was given mouldy tablets by an NGO. The name of an American organization was also printed on the packing. Investigations revealed that the American organization had bought the tablets from an Indian company which had repackaged the anti-retroviral to show false expiry dates. Nayanika Mukherjee said in the fortnightly Down To Earth commenting on the sorry plight of the drug-manufacturers in India, “With counterfeiting being carried out on a commercial level and at a large scale, India needs to plug in the loopholes in the supply chain and bring transparency in the distribution of pharmaceutical products.” Certainly South Africa’s step of sending the vaccine back to India and putting a ban on use of the made-in-India vaccine would damage the repute and credibility of India but as far as the Indian exporters and manufacturers are concerned, this is a routine matter there specifically in the field of drugs-manufacturing.

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