Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021 08:15 [IST]
Last Update: Tuesday, Jan 05, 2021 02:34 [IST]
The good news is that India has approved a couple of vaccines. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the country’s national drug regulator, announced on Sunday (January 3) that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has decided to accept the recommendations of its Subject Expert Committee (SEC), and approved the Covid-19 vaccines of both Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech for restricted use in the country.
Serum Institute of India (SII), has manufactured Covishield, the Indian variant of the AZD1222 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and already stockpiled some 80 million doses. As such, the rollout can begin fairly quickly. The other vaccine that has got emergency use authorisation, Covaxin, manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), could take a few days or weeks to be available.
In the United States and United Kingdom, the first shots were administered within 1-2 days of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines receiving regulatory approval. In India too, the process is likely to be very fast. While no concrete timelines have been announced it, it can be reasonably expected that the mass vaccination programme will begin within a week — perhaps by the coming weekend.
The bad news is that public confidence in our vaccination programme could be shaken by the irresponsible behaviour of a few. After announcing the approvals at a press conference on Sunday, DCGI officials refused to take any question. An opportunity to dispel public misgivings over the efficacy and side-effects of these jabs was lost. This could prove counter-productive to the aim of snuffing Covid out.
Even worse was the appalling attempt by Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav to give vaccines a political hue. He tweeted his refusal to take what he labelled as a “BJP vaccine", which he said he didn’t trust. Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday slammed Yadav along with Congress leaders Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh for doubting the approval given to Bharat Biotech’s vaccine and said it was disgraceful for anyone to politicise a critical issue.
This politicization of a mass exercise that could fail without the bipartisan cooperation of citizens deserves severe condemnation. These jabs have been developed by scientists and endorsed by the world’s scientific establishment. While domestic trial data on their use still needs to be made public, it becomes harder to quell the pandemic each time a public figure casts a vaccine in doubt. This is a national crisis. Our leaders should well know that it is pertinent to keep petty politics out of it.