July 5, 2022

Photo Credits: AP

Covid-19 vaccine vials are devoid of heat monitors

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The Covid-19 vaccine’s effectiveness is questioned with the lack of vaccine vial monitors (VVMs), which has been the concern of the hour. According to the WHO, VVMs are a caution indicator if the vaccine has been subjected to any damage by heat exposure. And, in the current vaccination drive, both the Covid-19 vaccines Covishield and Covaxin both lack the VVMs.

Gagandeep Kang, vaccine scientist said, “Covaxin and Covishield have both considered VVMs, and their submissions to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) include presentations with and without monitors. A lot depends on what the purchaser wants.”

The subject of VVMs was also a discussion amid the Legislative session. The issue about the inability of the healthcare professionals to judge the effectiveness of the vaccines was raised by Congress MLC P R Ramesh. Ramesh urged, “All vaccines, including polio vaccines, come with VVMs. But Covid vaccines don’t have them and the government must come clean on this.”

In the same light, Health Minister Sudhakar responded by saying that there is difference in between the Polio and Covid-19 vaccines. He remarked, “Both the vaccines are different and all vaccines cannot be treated the same way.”

What is a VVM?

VVM is a circular label comprising a square heat-sensitive material which is issued with a vaccine vial which records the total heat exposure of the vaccine over the time period. With exposure to heat, the inner square starts having a darker shade.

Dr Rajeev Dheere, Executive Director, Serum Institute of India said about it being impossible to synchronize the output of the vials and VVMs with increased demand for them. He said, “If we require a specific VVM, then the raw material has to be imported in a significant quantity. The production of Covishield is massive compared to other vaccines. Covishield is beyond predictions. There is only one company that produces VVMs. We need to choose the VVM which then needs to be printed and pasted using the machines.”

According to an official, to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine, the vaccine vials need to be used up completely in a span of a few hours. He said, “If a VVM is there, the Covid vaccine vial could have been used for a longer time. Hence, now it is being discarded within four hours of opening. This is usually applicable to the last vial in the campaign as most of the vials get empty within an hour or so.”

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