Senior Congress legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh has expressed concerns over the safety of Covid-19 vaccine to be used in Meghalaya and called for the government to hold all-party consultations on the issue.
India plans to begin its vaccination drive on January 16. The country’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (known as Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Experts have raised concerns over India’s emergency approval of Covaxin before the completion of the final set of safety and efficacy trials.
“We immediately need to have a consultation and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly should intervene at the earliest and set up a meeting between all the legislators so that we can have an understanding about what kind of vaccine they are planning to roll out in Meghalaya,” Lyngdoh told Highland Post.
The All India Drug Action Network said there were “intense concerns arising from the absence of the efficacy data” as well as a lack of transparency that would “raise more questions than answers and likely will not reinforce faith in our scientific decision making bodies”.
Stating that the vaccine has not cleared its third round of testing and no information has been provided to the public on the results of the testing and trials, Lyngdoh said, “There is a lot of fear and reservation in the mind of the public, including me as a legislator, because there are still lots of questions to ask the government.”
State governments around the country, including Meghalaya, have held practice runs to streamline the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine but Lyngdoh said that these are not useful without information on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“Has the government prepared some sort of interaction with the legislators to apprise us of the contents and the plans of this Covid-19 vaccination? The government cannot just administer the vaccine and wait for the reaction to occur and then only react,” she stated.
“When you don’t even call stakeholders to discuss the plans and have a debate on this first then how do you expect the public to come forward and be a willing recipient of this vaccination?” she asked.
The Shillong East MLA said that she was not “anti-vaccination” but is only expressing her reservation based on the information, or lack thereof, regarding the safety of the vaccination process.
As a part of nation-wide dry run to administer Covid-19 vaccination, Meghalaya had done the dry run in 33 health centres across 11 districts of the State.
The dry run was conducted successfully by following the three broad steps, checking the registration details of the healthcare workers who were to be vaccinated, mock administration of a vaccine (as a trial) and checking for any adverse effects following the immunisation while advising for a Covid appropriate behaviour (waiting period for 30 minutes).