Health Minister Harsh Vardhan hit out at the the opposition, after some of its leaders, including, Akhilesh Yadav, Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, on Sunday raised serious concerns over the grant of approval to Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine for restricted use, claiming that it is "premature" and can prove dangerous, saying it is "disgraceful for anyone to politicise such a critical issue."
In a tweet, the health minister asked Yadav, Ramesh and Tharoor not to "discredit well laid out science-backed protocols followed for approving" the vaccine.
"Wake up and realise you are only discrediting yourselves," he said.
Sharma, Ramesh and Tharoor had asked the health minister to explain why mandatory protocols and verification of data "had been dispensed with" while granting the approval. Sharma had said the matter of granting authorisation for vaccine use needs to be taken up carefully as no country has dispensed with the mandatory phase 3 trials and verification of data. "The health ministry needs to give cogent reasons for dispensing with the mandatory protocols and requirements in this case, since it involves the health and safety of those frontline workers who will be vaccinated under the restricted category," Sharma told PTI.
Tharoor said the approval is premature and Covaxin's use should be avoided as it could be dangerous. "The Covaxin has not yet had Phase 3 trials. Approval was premature and could 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," he tweeted, while Ramesh asked Harsh Vardhan to clarify why internationally-accepted protocols on phase 3 trials "are being modified".
Yadav had on Saturday termed the anti-COVID-19 vaccine to be rolled out in the country as a "vaccine of the BJP" and said he would not take the shot.
The BJP had reacted to these claims and allegations saying whenever India achieves something commendable the opposition party comes up with "wild theories" to "ridicule" the accomplishments. Party president J.P. Nadda accused the Congress and other opposition parties of trying to cause panic among people to further their "failed politics and nefarious agendas".
"Congress and the Opposition is not proud of anything Indian. They should introspect about how their lies on the COVID-19 vaccine will be used by vested interest groups for their own agendas," the BJP chief said in a series of tweets. "Within a year of the COVID-19 pandemic coming to India, our scientists and innovators have worked hard for a vaccine to cure this pandemic. While the entire nation is happy about this, the Opposition led the Congress is filled with anger, ridicule and disdain," he tweeted.
The World Health Organisation had welcomed the decision of giving authorisation to COVID-19 vaccines, saying it will help "intensify" and "strengthen" its fight against the ongoing pandemic. "WHO welcomes the first emergency use authorization given to COVID-19 vaccine in the WHO South-East Asia Region. This decision taken today by India will help intensify and strengthen the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the Region," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
—with PTI inputs