With the news of vaccine availability and so many names, the common man is confused as to which is best for him. Given below is some guidance for the avid reader.
Of the 52 odd vaccines in development worldwide, 4 are in the news and in finalization stages for approval and availability.
( Two others, Covaxin and Novavax are in phase 3 trials now).
These 4 are from:
1) Pfizer/ BioNTech
4) Sputnik (Russian)
The first two are mRNA-based ie, RNA - virus genetic code type and the last two are attenuated vaccines.
Pfizer and Moderna being genetic vaccines are not tested for safety in humans and its long-term effects on man are not yet known. There were reports that it could have an effect on our genetic makeup also in the long run. But these are cautious surmises in absence of real data.
Oxford and Sputnik are 'live attenuated vaccines' ie, like other vaccines where the pathogen is live but at say 100 times less virulence. The Flu and MMR vaccines are of these types.
All vaccines injected in the body help raise our immunity or simply put, raise the internal defence mechanisms to fight off that particular pathogen from which it's made.
Luckily for India, ICMR /government has made the right choice of Oxford and Sputnik vaccines ... Oxford is being manufactured at Serum Institute Pune and Sputnik vaccine imported recently from Russia is being evaluated by Dr Reddy's and it and has taken responsibility for clinical trials in India.....
Now, the advantage of this type of vaccine technology is that it has been used earlier in Ebola also. Apparently, the safety profile is good.
So, in the current situation, Oxford appears good for us in India.... Priced also at ₹1000/- for 2 doses.... because pricing is an important issue.
There are 2 other parameters to consider. One is efficacy percentage and then stability or storage conditions.
Although Pfizer and Moderna claim around 95% efficacy, our Serum's Oxford efficacy not high at 95% but anyway, safety is an important parameter.
But, earlier vaccines like Flu vaccine is 40-60 % efficacy and MMR against Rubella is 88% efficacy...yet we use them.
Stability-wise, Pfizer vaccine requires -70°c which is difficult in Indian conditions and it's costing. Oxford at 2 to 8°c is good and Sputnik at -18°c is also manageable.
Moderna mRNA vaccine has not conducted trials in India ....
Always, trials in own country gives a better picture due to our ethnicity being taken into account in world wide trials ....
So, in conclusion, Oxford and Sputnik appear good for us.
Once available in 2021, don't think that one can go and buy it easily. The government could be controlling its disbursal according to the priority of recipients like health care workers /doctors, other public warriors, then senior citizens etc.....
Leave the vaccine wars to the pharma companies.
Meanwhile, don't forget masks, safe distancing and avoiding crowds.
(Writer N V Ramamurthy is Secretary General, Indian Society for Clinical Research)