NEW DELHI: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and his state counterpart in Chhattisgarh T S Singh Deo, had a war of letters on Thursday over Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin with the latter asking the Centre to halt its supply until its efficacy is proven and the former dismissing the concerns.
Deo said in a letter to Vardhan, which he also shared on Twitter that “there's an inhibition/concern among the community in general regarding the use of Covaxin.”
“This concern arises from the fact that the clinical trials of phase 3 are yet to be completed,” he wrote.
Covaxin by Bharat Biotech, had been granted emergency use permission in India without completing its phase 3 clinical trial and Deo said on Thursday that it was likely too soon to be sent Covaxin shots after starting its immunisation campaign with 5.8 lakh doses of Covishield.
The state health minister also said that Covaxin vials do not display any expiry date and that he had requested Vardhan to halt its supply to Chhattisgarh "until these issues are addressed to the satisfaction of our Health Department to avoid the wastage of the early expiration doses of the drug".
In his response to Deo’s letter, Vardhan however was less than considerate and insisted that the national drug regulator has approved the vaccine following “prescribed procedure and after due evaluation of pre-clinical and clinical trial data”.
Both the vaccines, wrote Vardhan referring to Covishield and Covaxin, being supplied to states 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.
He also replied that the concern regarding unavailability of expiry date on Covaxin vial is “completely unfounded and without basis". He also shared a picture of the vial to prove his point.
In his strong worded letter, Vardhan also noted that while the state has achieved near 70% vaccination coverage of healthcare workers, it has been able to cover only about 9.5% of the 2,09,512 frontline workers through the first dose of vaccine so far.
“You would appreciate that this coverage needs to improve significantly since adequate quantity of both the vaccines are available with the state,” wrote the Union health minister.
Chhattisgarh, along with few others, has been resisting the use of Covaxin for immunisation drive against Covid-19 saying that its efficacy should first be established. The state along with 18 others has received the vaccine doses but is yet to utilise them.