‘Blatant Lies’: Govt Denies 7 ‘Myths’ on COVID Vaccine Programme
“These myths are arising due to distorted statements, half truths, and blatant lies,” the official statement said.
In a press release on Thursday, 27 May, Member (Health) in NITI Aayog and the Chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), Dr Vinod Paul, addressed seven prevalent ‘myths’ regarding the Indian government’s COVID-19 vaccine programme.
“These myths are arising due to distorted statements, half truths, and blatant lies,” the official statement titled, “Myths and Facts on India's Vaccination Process” read.
The following claims were addressed:
‘Centre is not doing enough to buy vaccines from abroad’
The Centre sought to invalidate this claim by saying that it has “remained engaged continuously with all the major international vaccine manufacturers right from mid-2020”.
However, the statement noted that there is a limited availability of vaccines globally, and vaccine manufacturers have different priorities and compulsions in allocating their stocks.
“They also give preference to countries of their origin just as our own vaccine makers have done unhesitatingly for us. As soon as Pfizer indicated vaccine availability, Central government and the company are working together for the earliest possible import of the vaccine,” the press release added.
'Centre has not approved vaccines available globally'
As per the government, Centre proactively facilitated entry of vaccines approved by US FDA, EMA, UK's MHRA, Japan's PMDA, and WHO's Emergency Use Listing into the country in April.
“These vaccines will not need to undergo prior bridging trials. The provision has now been further amended to waive off the trial requirement altogether for the well-established vaccines manufactured in other countries,” the press release stated.
Dr Paul informed that no application by any foreign manufacturer was pending for approval with the drugs controller.
‘Centre is not doing enough to ramp up domestic production of vaccines’
The government notified that it is playing the role of an “effective facilitator” to enable more companies to produce vaccines from early 2020.
The press release stated, there is only one Indian company (Bharat Biotech) that has the IP, the GoI has ensured that three other companies/plants will start production of Covaxin.
It added that Covaxin production is also being enhanced from under 1 crore per month to 10 crore per month by October, and Serum Institute’s Covishield production of 6.5 crore doses per month will be increased to 11.0 crore doses per month.
Additionally, the government is taking steps in ensuring partnership with Russia, in that Sputnik will be manufactured by six companies coordinated by Dr Reddy’s.
The official release said that the goal of producing over 200 crore doses by the end of 2021 is a result of these efforts.
'Centre should invoke compulsory licensing'
Dr Vinod Paul noted in the press release that compulsory licensing is not a very attractive option since it is not a ‘formula’ that matters, but active partnership, training of human resources, sourcing of raw materials, and accessibility to the highest levels of bio-safety labs.
'Centre has abdicated its responsibility to the states'
The Centre refuted this claim by saying that vaccine procured by the Centre is supplied wholly to the states for free administration to people.
“GoI has merely enabled states to try procuring vaccines on their own, on their explicit requests,” the statement read.
However, states including Delhi and Punjab ran into obstructions as Pfizer and Moderna refused to supply vaccines to states, and said that they would only deal with the Central government.
“The fact that global tenders have not given any results only reaffirm what we have been telling the states from day one: That vaccines are in short supply in the world and it is not easy to procure them at short notice,” the official notice said.
'Centre is not giving enough vaccines to the states'
Centre is allotting enough vaccines to the states in a transparent manner as per “agreed guidelines,” the press statement said, adding that states are also being informed in advance of the vaccine availability.
This comes in the background of an acute vaccine paucity in several states that are floating global tenders for vaccine procurement.
Additionally, the government statement said that “vaccine availability is going to increase in near future and much more supply would be possible”.
The press release addressed the public statements made by “some” state leaders looking for vaccines and said, “The behaviour of some of our leaders, who in spite of full knowledge of the facts on vaccine supply, appear on TV daily and create panic among the people is very unfortunate.”
'Centre is not taking any step to vaccinate children'
The press release said, “As of now, no country in the world is giving vaccines to children. Also, WHO has no recommendation on vaccinating children.”
However, Dr Paul highlighted that there have been studies about safety of vaccines in children, which have been encouraging and said that trials in children are also set to begin in India soon.
Alluding to the politics going on around the vaccine programme, the press statement read, “However, vaccinating children should not be decided on the basis of panic in Whatsapp groups and because some politicians want to play politics.”
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.