Congress questions Covaxin use, ICMR scientist says “dispel myths about vaccines”

The government has approved Serum’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for the nationwide vaccination drive that starts January 16

On February 26, Bharat Biotech Ltd had said it signed an agreement with the Brazilian government for the supply of 20 million doses of Covaxin during the second and third quarters of 2021. Representative photo

In the midst of a controversy around approval given to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccine, the Congress has alleged that the nationwide “vaccine rollout on January 16 is being used as a phase 3 trial”.

“You can’t use rollout as phase 3 trial, Indians are not guinea pigs,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told ANI.

Meanwhile, Dr Samiran Panda, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases division, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), urged people to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding Covid-19 vaccines.

Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad in association with the ICMR.

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While Serum Institute of India’s ‘Covishield’ vaccine is out and being transported across the country, Covaxin is yet to complete the crucial phase III human trials.

“Covaxin gives the immune system a wide variety of antigens to develop immunity,” said Dr Panda, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases division, ICMR, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Panda said, “the Indian program has taken a smart vaccination approach, rather than mass vaccination approach. Herd immunity by way of vaccination is good, but when the virus mutates, immunity might not be working against it even if it is a drift.”

Also read: Bharat Biotech flies out Covaxin, Day 1 of vaccination to have fewer centres

Covaxin doses too were carried to 11 cities on Wednesday morning (January 13) even as the Congress cautioned against lack of clarity on part of the Union government on the use of this particular vaccine which has not yet cleared the required trial phases.

Covaxin has been developed Bharat Biotech of Hyderabad in association with the ICMR. It has been projected as the first and only Made in India vaccine, something which goes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat programme.

Since the vaccine has not cleared the phase-III human trials, the Union Health Ministry gave a statement saying it will be used “only in case of emergency” as a back-up.

A PTI report on Wednesday quoted Union Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to say that such a choice won’t be available to Indians immediately.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari told ANI, “Now the government is saying recipients won’t be able to pick and choose the vaccine…When phase 3 trials of Covaxin is not complete, it raises various concerns on its efficacy.”

India’s vaccination drive is set to begin on January 16.

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