As questions surrounding the safety of Covishield continue to rise, a renowned British-Indian cardiologist recently said that the vaccine "should never have been rolled out in the country in the first place".

Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who has been leading international petitions for the suspension of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, told a news agency that the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab was "worse" than the former when it came to adverse outcomes such as cardiovascular effects, heart attacks, and strokes. The cardiologist is in India to deliver lectures on COVID vaccines and to seek their suspension by making an "evidence-based case".

Continued Administration Questionable

Dr. Malhotra highlighted that there have been appeals by experts worldwide for the suspension of mRNA vaccines–such as those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna–because of their adverse effects, particularly those affecting the cardiovascular system. He published a peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Insulin Resistance after critically analysing data on the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.

COVID Vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine (Representational Picture)Pixabay

The cardiologist noted that the evidence shows that the vaccine's harm outweighed its benefits. This, according to him, means that the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, should not have received approval at all.

Worse than mRNA Vaccines

India, which began its COVID-19 vaccination programme in January 2021, has administered more than 2.2 billion doses to over 1 billion people. At the time, Covishield was one of two vaccines–the other being Covaxin–approved as a two-dose regimen. Several countries across the world such as Denmark, France, and Germany among others, also inoculated their citizens with the AstraZeneca vaccine

They began suspending its administration in 2021–reports of vaccine-induced blood clots, some fatal, began emerging. However, India continued to use Covishield. Dr. Malhotra, pointed towards a study (comparing data until June 2021) published in a peer-reviewed research journal. He said that data showed that the vaccine had more severe adverse effects than Pfizer's mRNA jab–cardiovascular effects, heart attacks, strokes, blood clotting, and deaths, in both younger and older adults.

"We also have the pharmacovigilance data, which is post-marketing data, after the vaccine was approved and rolled out in the UK. We had 8,00,000 reports of adverse effects which were beyond mild after administering 9.7 million doses, almost 10 percent. This is unprecedented," he told PTI.

COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine (Representational Picture)Pixabay

Questioning the continued administration of Covishield in India despite its ceasing in the UK and other European countries owing to severe adverse effects, Dr. Malhotra emphasised: "There needs to be immediate suspension pending inquiry as to why India got this so very very wrong."

Reporting of Side-effects Very Low

Interestingly, according to CoWIN, the government portal tracking COVID-19 vaccination in India, Adverse events following immunization (AEFI) cases stand at around 0.007 percent–this is several times lower compared to that of other countries such as Argentina Canada, and Brazil, among others, where AEFIs were reported in 0.05 percent or above of vaccinations.

In November 2022,, reported that according to data shared by the health ministry with it, 89,231 instances of AEFI in response to the COVID-19 vaccination have been recorded in India so far. Of these, 1,148 resulted in deaths. The role of Covishield in these fatalities remains to be analysed.

No Further Doses Required

When asked if seeking a full safety review after millions of people across the world had been inoculated with two doses of the vaccine was a delayed response, Dr. Malhotra expressed, "What should be asked rather is why we got it wrong so that these problems do not happen again."

Covid Vaccine.
Covid Vaccine (Representational Picture)IANS

He added: "Many many people are suffering from vaccine-induced injuries or have lost relatives. So we need compensation for these people. AstraZeneca has not got immunity or liability from vaccine injuries so this inquiry also needs to find out who is ultimately liable and who is going to compensate them."

So what about Bharat Biotech's Covaxin? Dr. Malhotra answered: "The data I have seen at the moment doesn't suggest that Covaxin has any significant effects, and (it) seems safe. But of course, when other vaccines are getting investigated we also need to look at Covaxin."

Dr. Malhotra also said that over 90 percent of Indians have been exposed to COVID-19, and the natural immunity developed against the disease is powerful and can protect against severe illness. Importantly, he asserted that there is "no further requirement of vaccination for anybody in India".

"And there's certainly no requirement for anyone to have a booster especially as we know the side-effects are incremental. In other words the more shots you have the greater the chance of suffering a serious side-effect," he concluded.