Fear over Covaxin unfounded, Harsh Vardhan tells Chhattisgarh

After Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh raised questions on safety of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and refused to use it in its public immunisation drive, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said both the vaccines were safe and should be used expeditiously.

In a two-page letter, the health minister said, “I have got the matter examined in the ministry. I would like to inform you that as per New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules 2019 under Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and in light of urgent need due to Covid-19 pandemic CDSCO has granted permission to manufacture two Covid-19 vaccines based on the prescribed procedure and after due evaluation of pre-clinical and clinical trial data. Both these vaccines being supplied to the states/UTs are safe and immunogenic and should be used expeditiously to rapidly confer protection to prioritised beneficiaries thereby mitigating the impact of the pandemic at the earliest.”

ET had first reported in its January 28 and February 9 editions that Chhattisgarh would not use Covaxin. Singh Deo had told ET the state conveyed to the Centre on January 21 about its reservations but it still sent the vaccine.

The state health minister had also raised a concern that Covaxin vials did not carry an expiration date. Harsh Vardhan, however, brushed this aside and wrote, “Your concern regarding unavailability of expiry date on Covaxin vial is also completely unfounded and without basis, as the same is mentioned on the label of vaccine vials.” The health minister also enclosed photographs of the vials.

The health minister also asked the state to expedite its vaccination of frontline workers, which started on February 3. “While I note that Chhattisgarh has achieved 69.87% coverage of its healthcare workers by giving them the first dose of vaccine, the state has been able to cover only 9.55% of its 2,09,512 frontline workers through the first dose of vaccine. You would appreciate that this coverage needs to improve significantly since adequate quantities of both vaccines are available with the state,” he said.

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