Comparison of COVID-19 Vaccines in India: Covishield V/s Covaxin

07/06/2021

After a year-long battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, India successfully created two vaccines to protect its citizens from the mortal threat of the coronavirus. The two top vaccine contenders of the Indian subcontinent are Covishield and Covaxin. Both the vaccines have been through a series of tests and trials before being available for the general public, to ensure safety and efficacy.  

However, there still is a lot of confusion among people and many are finding it difficult to choose between the two. Therefore, here’s a detailed comparison of the two COVID-19 vaccines available in India.

How do vaccines work? 

When any disease-causing pathogen, which is a microorganism that causes or can cause disease, enters your body, your immune system tries to fight them by creating antibodies. These antibodies can also be called the soldiers of the immune system. Their job is to kill the pathogens or antigens and help you get well. However, the antibodies cannot act up too soon as they need time to understand the functioning of a particular pathogen and strategies to kill it. Therefore, if a new pathogen that you have never contracted, enters your body, you will fall sick. But once your immune system learns how to fight a pathogen, its antibody responses will be quicker the next time and it may kill the antigens before they make you sick. This is how your immunity protects you against chickenpox and measles.

Vaccines have a similar function. Vaccines are made up of viruses or bacteria that are altered or weakened so that they only cause an imitation of the disease and not the disease itself. They prepare your immune system to fight certain pathogens. However, in this case, you do not contract a live pathogen that can make you sick but inject yourself with an inactive one to train your immune system. Vaccines contain inactive pathogens that are harmless to the body and will not make you sick, but they will prepare your body to respond faster when the actual, active pathogen enters your body.

Covishield and Covaxin

Covishield

Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being manufactured in Pune, India by the Serum Institute of India. Covishield uses the viral vector platform for the preparation of the vaccine, which is a completely different technology.

For the formulation of Covishield, a common cold virus that causes cold in chimpanzees, called the adenovirus, has been used. The adenovirus has been modified to structure it like the coronavirus with the infamous spike protein. This cold, modified adenovirus is incapable of infecting the receiver, but can definitely train the immune system to prepare antibodies against such viruses. So, if the coronavirus enters your body, your immune system will know exactly what to do and will destroy it before it can multiply and make you sick.

Covishield has recorded an overall efficacy of 70% ,but it can be over 90% according to global reports, when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later. You will need to take two shots of Covishield with a span of four to eight weeks, i.e 28 to 59 days, between the shots.  

Vaccines tend to cause mild discomforts and side effects. The side effects associated with Covishield include – pain, redness or swelling at injection site, headaches, chills, fatigue, mild fever, nausea, and muscle or joint pain. These symptoms wear out in a few hours or a couple of days. If they linger for longer, you must consult your doctor immediately.

Covaxin

Covaxin is built on the classic, tried and tested platform of dead or inactive viruses. It is being developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Hyderabad, in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

The technology used for preparing this vaccine is the Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell-derived technology. In simple terms, the vaccine contains dead viruses that cannot infect the receiver but can teach your immune system to promptly fight the active ones entering your body. 

This is the same method that has been used to make vaccines for seasonal influenza, rabies, polio and more. The effectiveness of Covaxin is up to 81% according to interim 3rd phase trial results. Just like Covishield, Covaxin too is a two-shot vaccine. Both the shots must be administered 28 days apart. 

Side-effects associated with Covaxin include pain, swelling, itching, redness at injection site, fever, rashes, weakness, nausea and vomiting.

Helpful Tips

If you have pain or discomfort after getting vaccine, talk to your doctor about taking the over the counter medicine, such as Dolo 650 mg (paracetamol) or acetaminophen

To reduce pain and discomfort where you got the shot:

  • Apply a clean , cool, wet washcloth over the area
  • Use or exercise your arm.

To reduce discomfort from fever:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Dress lightly

Final Word

Both the vaccines have been proven to be effective and have gone under several trials to ensure safety. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the vaccine. We are still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID 19. After  you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart  from others, avoiding crowds and poorly  ventilated spaces, sanitizing, and washing your hands. However, experts are still learning if the vaccines can be given to children and pregnant women. If you have any concerns regarding the vaccines or cannot decide on which one to choose, it is wise to consult your health expert as they will be able to guide you accurately based on your health needs. 

India is facing a dark time. More and more people are succumbing to the deadly virus every day. Therefore, it is crucial that everybody gets vaccinated. It will not only protect you but also those around you. Help India get healthy again as it is in our hands. 

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