HYDERABAD: Public interest concern that there was perhaps a scramble to rush the ‘Made in India’ vaccines, in the absence of efficacy data, has resulted in Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech going on the offensive.
Biotech's chairman was at pains to underscore that his company had carried out "200 per cent honest clinical trials;" that his firm has a track record of producing safe and efficacious vaccines; and that they have conducted clinical trials in more than 12 countries, including in the UK.
PM Modi had hailed the clearance accorded to the two vaccines as a defining moment, pointing out that Covaxin was a shining example of his ambitious Atamnirbhar (self-reliance) India campaign.
He had explained that Covaxin had been approved for restricted use in "public interest as an abundant precaution, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains".
However, the All India Drug Action Network upped the ante by declaring that it was "baffled to understand the scientific logic" to approve "an incompletely studied vaccine".
Amid questions raised by industry experts, opposition parties and denizens of social media – who pointed out that saying a vaccine is 110% per cent safe is not the same as furnishing the data -- Biotech's chairman insisted that they had the data which he will share in a week’s time. He also asserted that they had conducted "200 per cent honest clinical trials".
At a media conference, Krishna Ella also said his firm has a track record of producing safe and efficacious vaccines and has manufactured 16 of them.
He was especially distressed at Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla’s remark that vaccines other than that of Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca were "just as safe as water". We don't deserve this backlash," an indignant Dr Krishna Ella declared.
"We have published in a lot of journals. We were the first to identify the Zika virus and the first to file a global patent for the Zika vaccine and the Chikungunya vaccine. It is not correct to say that we are not transparent with data... we don't deserve the backlash," Dr Ella added.
He also said the company had "the only BSL-3 (bio-safety level 3) production facility in the world". The vaccine was also more efficient against the mutant strain of novel coronavirus.
He said that the criticism against Covaxin just because it was an Indian vaccine was undue and hurtful. “India can innovate; it’s not a copycat country. We don’t deserve a backlash because we are an Indian company. In India, we do everything systematically and yet we get the bashing from the news media. A company has branded our vaccine as water. It hurts as a scientist and we don’t deserve that. Why is nobody questioning the UK trials? Because, Indian trials are easy to be bashed,” Dr Ella said.