Covaxin vs Covishield vs Sputnik V vs Pfizer: The scrambling game is on
Unfortunately, the debates between Russia and Ukraine did not have enough shelf life, but the arguments over the choice of the Covid-19 vaccine refuse to die, even now. Which one is better? Which is safer?
Is it a political ploy? Will there be more significant side effects? The discussions are unending, and the confusion over Cover-19 vaccines is the biggest story of at least this decade and for many more to come.
There is a full-fledged ‘anti-vax movement’ against the use of covid vaccines across the world, as most people call COVID vaccines, where each big pharma company came out with one mostly in a hurry, a ‘political gimmick’. Even the likes of Novak Djokovic, a tennis stalwart from Serbia, have taken a stance against COVID vaccination. His reasons are best known to him. Some believe the vaccines will give them the infection if they don’t have it yet. There are many schools of thought here.
Covid 19 Vaccine: The origin and aftereffects
Coming back to COVID-19, a virus that traces its roots in Wuhan in China, has changed our world forever and permanently. Some even tried to link bats and pangolins as the source of the virus. No proof is in place yet.
The series of deadly variants and mutants that followed wreck more havoc than we could ever imagine. The lockdowns across the world opened the human race to its vulnerabilities, both physical and emotional. People compared it to the Spanish flu, but COVID-19 became a pandemic. The word ‘pandemic’ has even found a place in the Oxford dictionary.
While Asia was grappling with the sudden lockdowns, Europe, especially Italy, was the worst affected. The U.S. too reeled under the pressure registering some of the highest numbers of casualties for the country in a pandemic ever. While many call the first wave (somewhere in December 2019) deadly, the second wave (almost May 2020 onwards) claimed the highest number of lives.
Time was especially tough for migrants as the world had come to a standstill, and they were stuck with nowhere to go. For two years, migrants suffered the worst, especially Indians and Latin Americans. They suffered financially too. Small businesses suffered huge losses, and many of them had to down shutters. Though, things are slowly looking up now.
Covid 19 Vaccine: Introduction of the ‘first’ vaccine
All the big pharma companies got into action right from the first wave, and by the second wave, most of them came up with vaccines after several ‘controversial’ trial and error methods. AstraZeneca (along with tests in the Oxford labs) was the first one to come up with a vaccine named COVISHIELD, which they claimed has a lesser number of side effects.
The long-term medical side effects of most vaccines that came afterwards are still unknown, especially for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The common side-effects after a jab were fever and body ache. But, both were short-lived.
Companies like Gilead Sciences and Pfizer came close but received the necessary permission for treatments much later.
The new normal of Covid 19 Vaccine in India:
Masks became mandatory in public and remained so. COVID-19 PCR tests became a reality without which you cannot travel within or outside the country. Now, some countries have relaxed the rules, but most still need the two-jab certificates. Japan was the latest one to relax the rules for foreign travellers. Now, the boosters are a must.
Quarantine has become a popular word, especially when you have travelled to other cities or countries. Hand sanitisers became a necessity.
The different variants of Covid 19 Vaccine available in India:
Most of these vaccines followed a set protocol of two jabs. The booster shots are a recent introduction. Mutants like Omicron (B.1.1.529), which was found in some patients in November 2021 in South Africa, have left people asking for more protection. In fact, Omicron now remains the dominant one across the country.
Regulatory bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based in the U.S., and the UK-based National Health Service got into action as soon as the pandemic hit and have been tracking the status of infection across the world.
Let’s have a look at what these pharma companies have been up to where these vaccines are concerned:
Comparison between the different Covid-19 vaccines in India: Covishield, Covaxin, Sputnik V, & Pfizer:
|Manufactured by||Serum Institute of India||Gamaleya Institute, Moscow||BioNTech||Bharat Biotech|
(private centres can charge Rs 150 per dose as a service charge)
|Rs 225 (from the earlier price of Rs 600).|
Free at government establishments
|Rs 995 + taxes||Rs 730||Rs 225 (from the earlier price of Rs 1200).|
Free at government establishments
|Type of Vaccine||Viral vector||Viral vector||RNA||Inactivated Virus|
|Doses||2 + 1 booster||2 + 1 booster||2 + 1 booster||2 + 1 booster|
|Storage||Stays for 6 months if stored between 2-8 ℃||In liquid form, it needs to be stored at -18.5 ℃ and in dry form, it can be stored at 2-8 ℃||It can be stored for 6 months if stored between -60 to -80 ℃ and up to 5 days if stored between 2-8 ℃||Needs to be stored at 2-8 ℃|
The different types of COVID-19 vaccines in detail
One of the first to hit the market, pharma company AstraZeneca came up with some initial success stories. The product contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The contract to produce the COVISHIELD vaccines in huge amounts was given to the Serum Institute of India, which has been supplying the world with the vaccines. Each dose contains 0.5 ml.
You need two doses of this vaccine for it to work efficiently. The second dose is advisable between 4 to 12 weeks post the first dose. Do not miss the second dose. And, now, the booster dose.
The pre-requisite of this vaccine is talking to your doctor about the pre-existing medical situations, especially if you are on blood thinners or if you are prone to allergies.
The company mentions some of the side effects, which need immediate attention, such as feeling light-headed, faster heartbeat, shortness of breath or wheezing and if your body swells up. Some common ones include tenderness in the injected area, feeling tired, headache, fever and joint pain.
Experts say most of these side effects will occur within 5-7 days of the first vaccination.
According to the current data available from the Serum Institute of India, the efficacy of the vaccine is 95%. Among the people who received this dose, 91.8% were 18-64 years old, where 56% were women, 74.9% were White, 10.1% were Black, and 3.7% were Asian.
The contents of the COVISHIELD vaccine include L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, L-Histidine, Polysorbate 80, Magnesium hydrochloride monohydrate, sucrose, ethanol, EDTA, i.e. disodium edetate dihydrate, sodium chloride and water for injection.
Once opened, the vials should be used within six hours when kept between 2 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius, mostly in a refrigerator. Practitioners are not supposed to shake the vials.
Bharat Biotech markets COVAXIN as India’s indigenous Covid vaccine developed in joint collaboration with the ICMR, i.e. the Indian Council of Medical Research and the NIV, i.e. the National Institute of Virology, based in Pune, India. The vaccine received DCGI approval, where human clinical trials were conducted in July 2020.
As many as 375 people took part in the first phase of the trials, and about 380 participants registered for phase two.
According to the data available with Bharat Biotech, the technology used to create the vaccine is called Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell. These dead viruses become active once they interact with the human immune system in order to fight the infection. The data further explains that such a technology has also been used to fight ailments like polio, seasonal influenza, rabies, pertussis as well as Japanese Encephalitis.
This also requires two jabs that should be administered 28 days apart. The vials need to be stored at a temperature between 2-8 degrees Celsius.
Some of the side effects include headache, nausea, fever and rashes.
According to the website, COVAXIN showed 77.8% efficacy against symptomatic Covid infection. The efficacy is 93.4% in case of severe symptomatic COVID-19 infection, according to the data available with Bharat Biotech.
As of now, the vaccine is only available for adults. The contents of the vaccine include 6µg of whole-virion inactivated SARS-CoV-2 antigen (Strain: NIV-2020-770). The other inactive ingredients include 2-phenoxyethanol 2.5 mg, TLR 7/8 agonist 15 µg, aluminium hydroxide gel and phosphate buffer saline up to 0.5 ml. Phase three of trials for COVAXIN include 25,800 participants.
Well, if we talk about vaccines, Russia is not far away. They are among some of the late entrants in the Covid-19 vaccine market.
“Sputnik V demonstrates strong protection against Omicron variant, with over two times higher virus neutralising activity compared to the Pfizer vaccine according to a unique independent comparative study conducted by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani in Italy,” claims the website for Sputnik V in big, bold letters.
Two jabs are needed here as well. There should be at least a gap of 3 weeks before you go for the second dose.
According to the data available with the ministry of health of the Russian Federation, 3.8 million Russians have been vaccinated with an efficacy of 97.6% against the infection. It claims that there are no serious adverse events or vaccine-related deaths. They also say that there have been no hospitalisation or any cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) cases after vaccination.
The vaccine claims an efficacy of over 80% against Covid infection. It boasts efficacy of 70% as a ‘stand-alone vaccine’ against 70%.
Besides Russia, Sputnik V had takers in UAE (with an efficacy of 97.8% after the second shot), Bahrain (with an efficacy of 94.3%) and Argentina (with an efficacy of 100%).
The website claims Sputnik V demonstrated the best efficacy rate in Hungary, where the infection rate per 1,00,000 vaccinated was much less compared to AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. It also says that the vaccine demonstrated the highest safety with the lowest ratio of adverse medical events in Mexico when compared to Sinovac, Cansino, AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech.
According to a report in The Lancet, a medical journal, the phase 3 trial of Sputnik V used a heterologous recombinant adenovirus approach where they used adenovirus 26 and adenovirus 5 as vectors.
The recent news is that Moderna has sued Pfizer-BioNTech over the technology used to create the vaccine.
They are trying to conduct trials on children, which regulators are closely monitoring across the world. The FDA has already approved the vaccine to be used in individuals aged 12 years and older.
They also claim to have kept diversity in mind during their trials. So, let us try to understand where it all started. According to the CDC, it can be an option for adults. It is a type of mRNA vaccine. The brand name here is COMIRNATY. The vaccine is still battling a lot of issues with some success stories.
It is the vaccine approved by the Indian Government for children from 12-18 years of age. It is the local version of the popular Novavax vaccine. Corbevax is being produced in India by the Serum Institute of India, which also manufactures Covishield. It is a protein sub-unit of the actual Covid-19 vaccine and has been tried and hence approved for children up to 18 years of age.
Myths and Facts:
There are various myths about the Covid 19 Vaccine in India, which are best busted. Here are some facts about the myths about the Covid 19 Vaccine:
1. Myth: The ingredients in all the Covid-19 vaccines in India are dangerous. It is best avoided.
All said and done; these vaccines generally do not include preservatives, antibiotics, tissues, food proteins, metals or latex, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Thus, it is safe to opt for the vaccine. However, some people might need to consult the doctor before opting for any vaccine:
- If you have a history of allergies or are allergic to any of the specified ingredients of the vaccine, then it is best avoided.
- If you are suffering from any cough and cold or have a temperature of more than 99F, you must consult the doctor or wait until you get normal before opting for the vaccine.
- If you are suffering from Covid-19 or have just recovered, you might want to postpone the vaccination until you get a confirmation from your doctor.
2. Myth: Immunity is not a hassle, with or without a vaccine.
It is always safer to get vaccines. Of course, talk to your doctor if you have pre-existing medical issues or are pregnant. Some medicines might need to be stopped before opting for the vaccine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that it is perfectly safe for people taking regular blood thinners to opt for a Covid-19 vaccine.
3. Myth: Variants mutate because of the vaccine.
Fact: It is the reverse. These vaccines help fight the variants. In fact, estimates suggest that the death due to Covid-19 would have been three times higher had it not been for the vaccines.
4. Myth: Covid vaccines contain microchips.
Fact: The CDC says no. The vaccines are developed only to fight the disease and not to monitor the same. Since the antibodies fight the viruses, the vaccines are developed to strengthen the immune system such that it is naturally prepared to fight the ailment if the virus enters the body.
5. Myth: Covid vaccines can alter DNA.
Fact: The CDC says the vaccines do not interact with the DNA
Not just these, we have vaccines from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen too.
While most countries came up with vaccinations for adults, pharma companies are now working towards providing the same for children and teenagers. The CDC has just pushed for Novavax as a suitable one for children and teenagers.
The regulators across the world have been trying to gauge as much data as they can, especially CDC, after Dr Anthony Fauci gained control. They are also trying to assess the long-term ailments related to each vaccine.
Pricing and jabs
While most governments took care of the vaccine expenses, the private entities too jumped in at places and charged exorbitant prices, up to Rs 1000 a jab, before they were regulated by the government.
In a nutshell
The concerns are different where conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility are concerned. The health regulators are constantly monitoring it to come up with more informed results. Take your pick but be informed and keep your vaccination cards handy. Also, to save yourself the worry of out-of-pocket expenses in case of hospitalisation, it is a good idea to keep yourself covered with an adequate amount of health insurance.
Frequently asked questions:
- Is it mandatory to take both doses of Covid-19 for its efficiency?
For increased efficiency, both doses, as well as the booster, need to be taken else the efficiency of the vaccines reduces significantly.
- Can I take 2 doses of 2 different vaccines?
The WHO confirms that you can safely take a different vaccine for the 2nd or the 3rd dose, but it is better to opt for the same one, if there is a choice, for higher efficiency.
- Is it mandatory to opt for the Covid-19 vaccine?
It is completely voluntary for you to opt for the Covid-19 vaccine but unless everyone opts for the vaccine, it will be difficult to eradicate the virus and hence advisable.
- How can I prevent COVID-19? You must take as much safety as possible to avoid contracting Covid-19 but it is not possible to completely prevent the same. Vaccination helps you to develop immunity and naturally fight the virus.