Congress leaders increase concern over nod to Covaxin, BJP hits again

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3

The BJP and the Congress clashed over the safety of Covaxin, country’s first indigenous Covid shot, approved by the Drugs Controller General of India on Sunday.

After Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor raised questions over the approval to Covaxin, which has not completed phase 3 human trials critical to showing efficacy, BJP ministers hit back, calling the critics in the House cynics.

Sharma, Ramesh and Tharoor questioned the government dispensing with mandatory protocols and verification of the phase 3 data in respect of Covaxin and demanded answers, which many independent experts did too. Congress’ chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala, however, hailed the scientists and the vaccine approval.

Anand Sharma, chairman, parliamentary panel on Home which studied pandemic management, said the grant of authorisation to the vaccines needed to be taken up carefully as no country had dispensed with the mandatory phase 3 trials and verification of data.

“Approval is premature and can be dangerous. Dr Harsh Vardhan should please clarify. Its use should be avoided till full trials are over. India can start with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the meantime,” said Tharoor. Jairam Ramesh said Bharat Biotech was a first-rate enterprise, but it was puzzling that internationally accepted protocols relating to the phase 3 trials were being modified for Covaxin.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan should clarify, Ramesh said, provoking Vardhan into a backlash.

“Disgraceful for anyone to politicise such a critical issue. Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh and Akhilesh Yadav, don’t try to discredit well laid-out, science-backed protocol followed for approving the Covid vaccines. Wake up,” said Vardhan. Union Minister Hardeep Puri also hit back, saying, “Our in-house cynics Mr Jairam, Tharoor and Akhilesh are behaving true to form. They first questioned the valour of our soldiers and are now unhappy that the two vaccines to get DCGI nod are made in India. Clearly, they are on a quest for permanent political marginalisation.”

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