A certain section of people may be hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine but not biotechnology industry veteran Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who said on Wednesday she will get vaccinated though its durability is not known as of now. The Executive Chairperson of Bengaluru-headquartered biotech major Biocon supported the unprecedented speed in taking the vaccine from the development stage to approval process.
"This is an unprecedented pandemic and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures," Mazumdar-Shaw told PTI in an interview.
"I think there is a need for regulatory speed to review and approve".
Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India and Pfizer have applied to the Drugs Controller General of India seeking emergency use authorisation for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
"Because of the urgency for the need for the vaccine, they (the Vaccine makers) are focusing on safety and efficacy but they don't have data right now on durability of response and, if there is any, long-term side-effects", according to her.
Mazumdar-Shaw, who has been named among the world's 100 most powerful women by Forbes which described her as "India's richest self-made woman", contended that if one looks at the risk-benefit ratio, the risk of not approving a vaccine is far greater than the kind of risks associated with any side- effects.
Safety and efficacy data is pretty good for all the vaccine candidates but the only question unanswered as of now is how long they will give protection, she said.
The risk of waiting to get the answer to the durability question is too high.
Even if the vaccine gives protection for a short-time, it is worth it, she argued.
Terming the pandemic as a "public health catastrophe", Mazumdar-Shaw said there is nothing wrong in the government exerting pressure on the regulatory bodies to review the vaccine candidates.
On a certain section of people worried about side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, she said they should not feel like that, adding, it's not unsafe but the only thing one may not know as of now is how durable it is.
"Right now, as a person, I am not concerned about safety and efficacy (of COVID-19 vaccine). I am more concerned about: Will it protect me long enough?".
"If I were asked whether I will vaccinate myself, I will say 'yes'; because whatever it is, I would lke to at least protect myself
I am one of those fortunate people who actually developed natural immunity because I got COVID-19. But would I recommend that my family takes it? I would say 'yes'," the 67-year-old said.
Mazumdar-Shaw, who has more than four decades of experience in biotechnology, underlined that there is a need to allay fears of people on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and to remove vaccine hesitancy.
"It is important to build that reliability and awareness saying that the vaccines are safe, and over time we will know how effective they are in terms of durability", she added.
Noting that "so many" vaccines are being developed because of the pandemic, Mazumdar-Shaw said in a year's time it would be known as to which one is more effective than others.
"... we have no other option. We need to get back to normalcy. I think taking a safe and efficacious vaccine...
(even if) with limited protection, you should take it. It's the way I look at it", she said.