New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan criticised Congress and other opposition leaders over their comments on Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which was cleared for emergency use in the country along with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.Also Read - Will Develop Booster Shot For New Covid Variant 'Omicron', Says Moderna

“Disgraceful for anyone to politicise such a critical issue. Sh @ShashiTharoor, Sh @yadavakhilesh & Sh @Jairam_Ramesh don’t try to discredit well laid out science-backed protocols followed for approving #COVID19 vaccines. Wake up & realise you are only discrediting yourselves,” Harsh Vardhan tweeted. Also Read - Covaxin 50% Effective Against Symptomatic COVID: Lancet Study

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Some Congress leaders, including 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, saying it is “premature” and can prove dangerous.

“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,” Anand Sharma was quoted as saying by PTI.

“The DCGI statement is puzzling and the government must reveal the final data of global efficacy trials and the final trials in UK which has been shared officially by UK’s MHRA following a government to government agreement signed between the two countries which should be put in the public domain to avoid any confusion on the proven efficacy of the vaccine,” Anand Sharma added.

BJP Hits Back

The BJP on Sunday hit out at the Congress after some of its leaders questioned the approval process for Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine, with party president J P Nadda alleging that whenever India achieves something commendable the opposition party comes up with “wild theories” to “ridicule” the accomplishments.

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.

Nadda said, “Time and again we have seen whenever India achieves something commendable – that will further public good – the Congress comes up with wild theories to oppose and ridicule the accomplishments. The more they oppose, the more they are exposed. Latest example is the Covid vaccines.”

He said people have been rejecting such politics and will keep doing so in the future.

“Congress and other Opposition leaders are trying to cause panic in the minds of the people. I urge them to do politics on other issues, they should avoid playing with people’s precious lives and hard-earned livelihoods,” Nadda said.

While the entire nation is happy about the development of vaccines, the opposition led by the Congress is filled with anger, ridicule and disdain, he alleged.

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri also took a swipe at the opposition leaders, saying they are on a quest for permanent political marginalisation.

In a tweet, Puri said, “Our in-house cynics M/s Jairam, Tharoor & Akhilesh are behaving true to form. They first questioned the valour of our soldiers & are now unhappy that the two vaccines to get DCGI nod are made in India. Clearly, they are on a quest for permanent political marginalization.”

His dig, however, drew a sharp retort from Congress leader Jairam Ramesh who compared him with Nazi propagandists.

Jairam Ramesh retorted, “So says the in-house Goebbels-cum-Albert Speer.”

Both Goebbels and Speer were close allies of German dictator Hitler.

Tharoor, a Congress MP and former union minister, also countered Puri, saying he had never questioned the valour of our soldiers.

“I would be happy and proud if more Indian vaccines are approved but only after a full 3-phase trial confirms they are safe & effective. Short-circuiting the process is unprecedented, inadvisable & risks lives.

“We are baffled to understand what scientific logic has motivated the SEC (subject expert committee) to approve this vaccine posthaste… in violation of the criteria in the draft regulatory guidelines for the development of Covid-19 vaccines published by CDSCO on 21/9/20,” he tweeted, referring to Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

Ramesh had earlier said that Bharat Biotech is a first-rate enterprise while adding that it is puzzling that internationally-accepted protocols relating to phase three trials are being modified for Covaxin.

He asked Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to clarify.

Echoing this, Tharoor said Covaxin has not yet had Phase three trials.

“Approval was premature and could be dangerous. @drharshvardhan should please clarify. Its use should be avoided till full trials are over. India can start with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the meantime,” he said.

India’s drugs regulator on Sunday approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted the approval on the basis of recommendations by a COVID-19 Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).