Even as Covaxin awaits approval from the WHO, an NRI moved the Kerala HC seeking permission to take a third dose of an internationally recognised vaccine. Working in Saudi Arabia, petitioner Girikumar Thekkan Kunnumpurath was administered two doses of Covaxin after he returned to India in January this year. However, the petitioner expressed apprehension that he will not be allowed to return to Saudi Arabia as the West Asian nation doesn't recognise Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine.
Stating that he will lose his job if he doesn't return to Saudi Arabia by August 30, the petitioner highlighted that the only option available to him is the Covishield jab. But, he mentioned that getting a third dose is not possible at the moment as the CoWIN website doesn't permit the same. Citing news reports and a study by the Oxford University, Kunnumpurath stressed that the booster dose augments the immune response against the novel coronavirus. Thereafter, the HC issued notice to the Centre seeking its views on the matter and adjourned the case till August 9.
Covaxin is a Whole Virion Inactivated Coronavirus Vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and NIV. While the phase 3 trials entailed 25,800 participants between 18-98 years of age including 10% over the age of 60, the analysis was conducted 14 days after administering the second dose of the vaccine. It has shown overall 77.8% efficacy and 93.4% efficacy against severe COVID-19 disease as per the final results.
On the other hand, efficacy data demonstrates 63.6% protection against asymptomatic COVID-19 disease. Most importantly, it has proven to neutralise variants such as B.1.1.7 (Alpha), B.1.617 (Kappa), B.1.351 (Beta), and B.1.617.2 (Delta). Under the aegis of the ‘Mission COVID Suraksha- the Indian COVID-19 Vaccine Development Mission’, the Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Mumbai; Indian Immunologicals Limited, Hyderabad, and Bharat Immunologicals Biologicals Limited in Bulandshahr have also been permitted to produce Covaxin.
The Union government informed the Rajya Sabha on July 20 that a decision on Covaxin's inclusion in the Emergency Use List will be taken in 2-3 months' time. As Bharat Biotech had submitted the data required for WHO’s approval on July 9, 2021, the process is expected to get over by September-October. The emergency use approval can be a gamechanger amid the COVID-19 crisis as it is likely to encourage countries to import the vaccine, facilitate its manufacturing abroad and ease global travel for those vaccinated with it.