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Updated 29 January 2021

The quaint hill town of Shimla, set between the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh amidst the lofty snow-clad mountains and lush greenery, has unfortunately been weighed down by deadly coronavirus pandemic. With cases still in, the citizens of Shimla are eagerly looking forward to the deployment of vaccines to put an end to this global crisis, once and for all.  

With the mass immunization drive having started on January 16, what are the latest updates about the vaccination drive in Shimla right now? How is it being carried out?

Updates on the COVID vaccine in Shimla

93,000 doses of Covishield vaccine, prepared by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, reached the state-level storage facility in Shimla after 7 pm on January 14. The vaccine was airlifted from Pune to Chandigarh, and from there, it was brought to Shimla by road by the Health Department’s team. 

Around 40,000 healthcare workers will be vaccinated with this consignment. Half of the vaccine will be saved for the second dose that will be due after 28 days.

The Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur, said that tentative vaccine allocation would be calculated for each launch site with an additional 10 percent to allow wastage.

Once opened, a vial should be used within four hours, and the second dose for the beneficiaries will be secured during the current allocation. The state has received a sufficient quantity of Auto-Disable (A.D.) syringes, which have been distributed to the districts. An additional stock of 0.5 milliliter A.D. syringes has also been stored at the state and regional vaccine stores.

What vaccines are available now?

After having gone through months of clinical and human trials, Covishield and Covaxin are the only COVID-19 vaccines approved in India right now. The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved the Emergency Use Authorization of these two vaccines after being reviewed by a select panel of experts from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). 

Both vaccines have undergone different phases of trials and tests to establish safety and immunogenicity. 

Covaxin

Covaxin is an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (N.I.V.). Covaxin is a Whole Virion Inactivated Vaccine. The vaccine has been shown to generate immunity following two doses given four weeks apart through ongoing trials. Covaxin is presented in multi-dose vials and can be stored at 2-8ºC.

The vaccine will not be administered for children below 18 years of age. In phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials, Covaxin has demonstrated the ability to produce antibodies against COVID-19. However, the clinical efficacy is yet to be established, and it is still being studied in phase 3 clinical trial. Nevertheless, the safety parameters are looking good. 

Covishield 

Manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, Covishield is the COVID vaccine jointly developed by The Oxford University and AstraZeneca biopharmaceutical based in the U.K. The Covishield vaccination course consists of two separate doses of 0.5 ml each. Recipients should take the second dose 4 to 6 weeks after the first dose. 

The vaccine has been approved for restricted use for individuals 18 years of age and above. Covishield has undergone three phases of clinical tests for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy. The confirmed efficacy rate is 70.42%. 

 

Other vaccine candidates

Several other vaccines are in different phases of human clinical trials, waiting for their approval. In addition to these two approved COVID vaccines in the country right now, vaccines developed by foreign and indigenous companies anxiously await the nod from DCGI. 

Pfizer Vaccine

The jab manufactured by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals based in America and BioNTech, the biotechnology company from Germany, has already been widely authorized in countries such as the U.S., UK, Canada, and Bahrain. Pfizer was the first candidate in India to apply for its emergency approval.

This mRNA vaccine has undergone three safety trials abroad. However, Pfizer will be authorized by the government only after doing a local study on the Indian population. The vaccine consists of two doses to be taken 21 days apart and is recommended for people aged 16 years and older. The efficacy rate is reportedly more than 90%. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has said that the price of a single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine is Rs 1,431 (USD 19.50).

Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D

COVID-19 vaccine ZyCoV-D, developed by Zydus Cadila, the pharmaceutical firm based in Hyderabad, has successfully undergone Phase I and Phase II trials in over 1000 healthy individuals. The plasmid D.N.A. vaccine has been found safe and immunogenic in the first two trials and is eagerly waiting for the central government’s approval to conduct Phase III safety trials. The last stage trials are currently taking place in Ahmedabad, Surat, Nashik, and Jaipur. 

The vaccine is known to show improved vaccine stability than its counterparts, enabling it to remain stable at room temperature for over three months. The vaccine’s strength and resistance would make it ideal for access, even in the country’s remotest regions. 

Sputnik V

Produced by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Sputnik V is currently undergoing last-stage trials after completing a Phase II study. The ongoing clinical trial in Russia involves 40,000 volunteers. 

Sputnik V is the first registered vaccine against COVID-19 created on a human adenoviral vector platform. The vaccine comprises two doses. The second dose should be taken 21 days after administration of the first dose. The efficacy rate is confirmed to be 91.4%. Sputnik V will soon apply for emergency-use approval in the country.

Biological E

The Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm Biological E is working with the US-based biopharmaceutical firm Dynavax Technologies Corporation and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, to create a globally available COVID 19 vaccine. Followed by the approval from DGIC, Biological E. has initiated Phase I/II clinical trial of its COVID-19. 

The clinical tests will evaluate vaccine safety and immunogenicity in healthy individuals between ages 18 and 65. The results are expected to be available by the end of February. 

Gennova Biopharmaceuticals 

Pune-based firm Gennova in collaboration with H.D.T. Biotech Corporation, Seattle, US, has produced the mRNA COVID vaccine- HGCO19. The DGCI has granted conditional permission for Phase I/II trials and animal toxicity study of the vaccine. 

The tests are expected to be complete by mid-March. If approved, HGCO19 will be the first indigenous mRNA vaccine in the country. 

Mynvax 

Mynvax is a heat-tolerant COVID 19 vaccine developed at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The vaccine could tolerate and stay stable at much higher temperatures, whereas other vaccine candidates might lose their shape after 50°C, making it a “warm vaccine.” 

Mynvax can be stored at 37°C for over a month without losing its viability and ability to fight the virus. Researchers at IISc have reported that the vaccine maintains its stability at very high temperatures up to 100°C. 

 

When can Shimla residents be vaccinated?

Like the rest of the country, vaccination in Shimla will be carried out in three phases: 

  • Phase 1 focuses on health care workers, ward persons, medical officers, nurses, and ambulance staff. 
  • Phase 2 is for the police, armed forces, and disaster management volunteers.
  • Phase 3 focuses on individuals above 50 and those under 50 with comorbidities. 

District vaccine stores have been set up in all 12 districts, besides 371 stores in medical colleges block level, community health centers, and primary health centers. 386 cold chain points have also been established to ensure a smooth vaccination drive throughout the state. 

Where to get vaccinated in Shimla?

The vaccines are being administered to healthcare workers at 27 centers across the state. Four major vaccination centers in Shimla are listed below: 

Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC)
Ridge Sanjauli Rd, Lakkar Bazar, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh 171001

Deen Dyal Upadhyay (D.D.U.) Hospital
Cart Rd, Near Local Bus Stand, Lower Bazar, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh 171001

Government Senior Secondary School
Kasumpti Tehsil & District. Shimla Himachal Pradesh 171009

Tenzin Hospital
NH-22, Bypass Rd Panthaghati, Kasumpti, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh 171009

How much will the vaccination cost?

Prime Minister Modi has announced that the states will not bear the vaccination cost during the initial phase. The central government will be taking care of the charges for the vaccines for all those who qualify for Phase 1. There is no absolute clarity on what will cost the rest of the public. It is speculated that Covishield will cost Rs 200 for the first 100 million doses and Rs 1,000 per dose after that at private outlets. The Covaxin course is estimated to cost Rs 206 per dose. 

However, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has stated that vaccine will be provided free of cost across the country. \