'Facts being twisted': Centre rushes with a rejoinder after Congress latches onto RTI response on calf serum in Covaxin

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 11:33 PM IST
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In this file photo taken on May 09, 2021 A medical worker displays a vial of the Covaxin vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Mumbai. | AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: In yet another distraction during these times of pandemic, a Congress leader has shared an RTI document on his Twitter account, which says that Covaxin contains the serum of a newborn calf. Congress party's Gaurav Pandhi based his claims on an RTI response from the Central Drugs Controller General to Vikas Patni, the man who filed the query.

''In an RTI response, the Modi Govt has admitted that Covaxin consists of newborn calf serum …..which is a portion of clotted blood obtained from less than 20 days young cow-calves, after slaughtering them. This is heinous! This information should have been made public before," said the tweet by the Congress leader.

Keeping the sensitivities in mind, the Centre lost no time on Wednesday in issuing a clarification.

“There have been some social media posts regarding composition of the Covaxin vaccine where it has been suggested that it contains the newborn calf serum. Facts have been twisted and misrepresented in these posts,” read the Centre’s statement.

''Newborn Calf Serum is used only for preparation/ growth of vero cells. Different kinds of bovine and other animal serum are standard enrichment ingredient used globally for vero cell growth. Vero cells are used to establish cell lives which help in production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines,” said the Centre in its response.

These vero cells, after growth, are washed with water, with chemicals (also technically known as buffer), many times to make it free from the newborn calf serum. Thereafter, these vero cells are infected with Covid-19 for viral growth. The vero cells are completely destroyed in the process. Thereafter this grown virus is also killed (inactivated) and purified. This killed virus is then used to make the final vaccine, and in the final vaccine formulation no calf serum is used,'' according to the statement.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi reacted to the claims. "Those who keep talking about the need for scientific temperament & research are now tweeting their disgust basis some RTI on Covaxin, adding to vaccine hesitancy by bringing religion-based choices to it. Please resist sliding down this slippery slope against vaccines."

Anand Ranganathan, a JNU professor wrote on Twitter, "Pl delete this tweet. 1. COVAXIN is the vaccine - it does NOT contain Calf serum as you allege. 2. Calves are NOT slaughtered for it. 3. Calf serum is used ONLY for growing cells to make more of the virus. 4. This information is ALREADY in the public domain since September 2020.

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