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Health experts have raised concerns over India’s decision to allow restricted emergency use of Covaxin, a coronavirus vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Hyderabad, and said that it may put its mass immunization programme in jeopardy.

Fast-tracking of vaccines may impact their acceptance among the general population in India, they added.

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The subject expert committee of the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) on Sunday approved restricted use of the covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, despite the absence of efficacy data from the ongoing phase 3 clinical trials.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned member countries to deal with the infodemic surrounding the pandemic and vaccines.

“Till now immunization was never a political issue for polio or measles, rubella or Mission Indradhanush. Now, Covaxin authorization has sharply divided the country along party lines which will further fuel the infodemic of misinformation and disinformation, and may jeopardize the covid-19 vaccine rollout, and the immunization programme," said Dr Naveen Thacker, executive director, International Pediatric Association, and former civil society organization representative to the Gavi board, the Vaccine Alliance.

In tune with the sentiments, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Agricultural Sciences by the ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) said concerns over the side effects of a vaccine may act as a key barrier for vaccine acceptance.

The study, titled Covid-19 vaccine acceptance: beliefs and barriers association with vaccination among the general population in India, said the success of covid vaccination programme will depend on the development of effective and safer vaccines and on public acceptance, which in turn is reliant on the beliefs and perception towards a vaccine.

Among the 351 participants, 55% believed that covid-19 vaccination will be safe, while only 46.2% believed that it will be effective. “A majority of the participants (86.3%) were planning to get covid-19 vaccination, whereas 13.7% admitted hesitancy. However, only 65.8% of the participants said they will receive vaccination as soon as possible whenever the vaccine is available," it said.

The study said despite the benefits of vaccination, this fundamental health protecting tool is facing many obstacles globally. Many factors like geography, time, social class, contextual human behaviour and ethnicity are affecting the acceptance of vaccines among the population, it said.

The researchers’ results indicate that vaccine acceptance is 86.3%, which is in accordance with results obtained from the studies conducted in US and China.

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