6 May 2024

Supreme Court to Review Concerns Regarding Covishield Side-Effects

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea concerning a rare side-effect linked to the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and marketed as Covishield in the country. 

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud acknowledged the issue, which encompasses calls for an expert panel to investigate the side-effect and demands for government compensation for families of individuals who may have passed away after receiving the vaccine. Although a date for the hearing has not yet been set, an early hearing of the petition has been dismissed.

Probe by an expert panel sought 

The petitioner specifically seeks an investigation by an expert panel into both the identified side-effect and other potential risks, with the added stipulation that a retired Supreme Court judge monitor this investigation. Instances have been cited where vaccine recipients have experienced disability, prompting calls for government compensation for these cases as well. 

AstraZeneca had previously disclosed that its vaccine could, in rare instances, lead to thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a condition characterized by blood clots and low platelet count.

The company faces class-action lawsuits in the United Kingdom, spurred by a complaint from Jamie Scott, who alleges suffering a permanent brain injury due to a blood clot formed after receiving the vaccine in April 2021. 

AstraZeneca later acknowledged rare side effects in a UK court

Initially contesting the claim, AstraZeneca later acknowledged in a UK court that the AZ vaccine can, in very rare cases, cause TTS. Over 50 cases with claimed damages up to 100 million pounds are currently before the courts. AstraZeneca has expressed sympathy for those affected while reaffirming its commitment to patient safety and adherence to stringent standards for all medicines.

Reports of potential side-effects from the Covishield vaccine, widely administered in India, have raised concerns. However, medical experts and a fact-check conducted by The Healthy Indian Project suggest the claim is only partially true; while the risk of TTS is real, its probability is deemed "very rare". Experts emphasize that side-effects, though not uncommon in vaccines, are typically minor and short-lived. 

Benefits of vaccination outweigh risks, claim regulatory agencies

Regulatory agencies worldwide, including the WHO, maintain that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks posed by extremely rare side effects. Covishield employs a viral vector platform utilizing a modified chimpanzee adenovirus, ChAdOx1, to transport the COVID-19 spike protein into human cells, effectively training the immune system to combat similar viruses.

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