First Covishield, then Covaxin: UP villagers get wrong second dose

Officials claim the villagers did not experience any negative side-effects and those responsible will be punished

Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has said on the WHO website that presently 'there isn't enough data for us to recommend this type of interchangeable two dose schedules' | Photo: iStock

The COVID-19 vaccination programme in a remote UP district went awry, as twenty villagers were administered with a mixed dosage of the vaccine at a government hospital, which the medical officers have explained as an “oversight”.

The villagers who belong to Siddharthnagar district (named after Buddha’s name before he got Enlightenment) near the Nepal border, were given Covishield for their first shot on April first week, said media reports. However, when they returned for their second dose on May 14, they were administered the India-made vaccine, Covaxin without being questioned about their earlier dose.

This mistake happened at a rural Primary Health Centre around 270 km from the state capital Lucknow. Officials claimed that the villagers did not experience any negative side-effects and those responsible will be punished.

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“This is definitely an oversight. There are no instructions from the government to administer a cocktail of vaccines. So, it is an oversight,” said Sandeep Chaudhary, Chief Medical Officer of Siddharthnagar, NDTV reported. He added that they had ordered an enquiry and have also got a report. Now, the authorities will demand an explanation from those who were guilty of this mistake and take action against them.

Currently, there is insufficient medical evidence on the effectiveness or impact of mixing vaccines since clinical trials on the “interchangeability” of vaccines are still going on. According to the WHO website, Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has said that presently “there isn’t enough data for us to recommend this type of interchangeable two dose schedules.” It is better to have the second dose with the same vaccine as you had the first dose, she added.

Chaudhary further told the media that their teams had met and checked with the people who were mistakenly administered the second dose from a different manufacturer. “They are all healthy and not facing any problems,” the medical officer confirmed.

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However, the villagers are in the dark about any health official having visited them to check about their health condition. Ram Surat, an elderly villager and one of the victims of this “oversight” said that he had found out later from the doctor that something “wrong” had happened and he had been given Covaxin instead of Covishield.

Surat told NDTV that he was scared about the outcome of having taken two different vaccines. “When I went for my second dose, no one bothered to check anything. In place of Covishield I got Covaxin. It is scary,” said Ram Surat adding that no one had visited him to follow up on his health condition.

The pace of vaccination in India’s largest state is limping along. UP has administered 1.75 crore vaccine doses in three months but the number of fully-vaccinated people in the state is just 33 lakhs. This is about 1.8 per cent of UP’s massive 23 crore-plus population.

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