Bharat Biotech hits back at critics, says its COVID vaccine ‘200% safe’

Comapany says Covaxin has shown less than 10% adverse reactions, while other vaccines have shown 60-70% reactions

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Bharat Biotech Managing Director, Krishna Ella.

Days after Congress leaders questioned the efficacy of Bharat Biotech’s ‘Covaxin’, company MD Krishna Ella said it is “no less than Pfizer” in developing vaccines and that criticism against it was a “backlash against Indian companies”.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor recently said the emergency approval to the company’s COVID-19 vaccine — Covaxin — is premature and could be dangerous as it is still under phase III trial. He also urged Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to wait till full trials of the vaccine are completed.

At a virtual press conference on Tuesday (January 4), Ella said Covaxin has shown less than 10% adverse reactions, while other vaccines have much more. “Covaxin has shown less than 10 % adverse reactions, while others have 60-70% adverse reactions. AstraZeneca was giving 4g paracetamol to volunteers to suppress such reactions. We haven’t given paracetamol to any volunteer. I can assure our vaccine is 200 % safe,” he said.

Watch: Things to know before getting COVID-19 vaccine

In response to Congress’ criticism, members of the national task force, including AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria and ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava, clarified that the approval given to Bharat Biotech is different from the one to AstraZeneca’s ‘Covishield’, which is being manufactured in India by Serum Institute. Dr Guleria said, “This is like a back-up. If we find that cases don’t rise, then we stick to the Serum vaccine, till the Bharat Biotech data comes early next month. And if that data is found to be good enough, then they will get the same approval as the SII (Serum).”

Meanwhile, a day after India approved two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was all praise for the hard work of scientists and said that “the country was proud of their efforts in fighting the virus”.

‘8 patients of mutated strain in India’

Eight people who returned to Maharashtra from the United Kingdom have tested positive for the mutated strain of coronavirus. Five of them are from Mumbai, while three others are from Pune, Thane and Mira Bhayander.

Till Monday (January 3), 38 people tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India. The patients have been kept in isolation by respective state governments and their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been initiated, the Union health ministry said.

India is likely to start its mass vaccination programme soon as the Centre has told vaccine manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin to prepare to ship “a significant amount” of doses to over 30 vaccination hubs in the country.

Over 30 crore people, including healthcare workers, people with co-morbid conditions and those above the age of 50, will get the vaccine shot in the first phase which is likely to be completed till August.