War of words between Vardhan, Deo on Covaxin efficacy

War of words between Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo on Covaxin's efficacy

Deo had requested the central minister to reconsider the decision of sending Covaxin and observed that the vaccine could be dispatched only after phase-3 results are out

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo. Credit: PTI Photo, Facebook/tssinghdeosurguja

Nearly two months after India’s first home-grown Covid-19 vaccine was given approval for a commercial rollout without efficacy data, a war of words has erupted between Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Covaxin’s efficacy with the central minister accusing Deo of “stoking inhibition on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccine".

Deo, on his part, pointed out that inhibitions and concerns regarding Covaxin— manufactured by Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad— were real and it could not be taken lightly under any circumstances. 

“How can a vaccine be made available for regular use unless it has cleared the third phase of trials and its reports are published?” he asked.

The Chhattisgarh minister, one of the senior-most Congress leaders from the state, reminded Vardhan that when such inhibitions regarding the performance and efficacy of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine cropped up, the Drugs Controller General of India had paused the clinical trial and production of the vaccine in India.

On the eve of Chhattisgarh receiving its quota of Covaxin last month, Deo wrote to Vardhan flagging the inhibition and concerns among the community arising from lack of clinical trial data. He requested the central minister to reconsider the decision of sending Covaxin and observed that the vaccine could be dispatched only after phase-3 results are out.

Read: Over 58 lakh vaccinated against Covid-19 in India, health ministry says

“While the world progresses in the direction of more effective and efficient vaccination options, not just in capacity but also in implementation, is it wise to rush into the process ignoring the slightest scepticism of the general community!” he tweeted.

In his response, Vardhan said the indigenous vaccine is “safe and immunogenic” and should be used “expeditiously to rapidly confer protection.” The BJP leader also asked Deo not to stoke inhibition.

“Is it really befitting of a state's Health Minister to stoke inhibitions regarding efficacy of Covid-19 vaccine? In such unprecedented times, you should help address any vaccine hesitancy and do what's in the best interest of people, not further vested interests,” Vardhan said.

In his letter, the Union Health Minister, however, did not mention that the DCGI approved use of Covaxin in a “clinical trial mode” (without explaining what it is) but made an attempt to equate the two vaccines.

Till Friday 77.66 lakh people received the vaccine at 1,63,587 sessions. This is less than 50% of the people who should have got the shots in those sessions. The second dose of vaccination for the first group of who received the vaccine on January 16 will happen on Saturday.