‘Do not hide behind vaccine nationalism’: Dr Harsh Vardhan, Manish Tewari lock horns

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In the midst of the first day of the nationwide coronavirus vaccination drive, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and senior Congress leader Manish Tewari were engaged in a war of words after the latter questioned the safety and efficacy of the two indigenous Covid-19 vaccines.

The Health Minister accused the Congress of spreading “distrust and rumours” and said that the science behind the vaccines is “resolute”. “Our scientists have worked at lightning speed to expedite functions that contribute to development of a vaccine but not a single function has been circumvented,” he tweeted. “Safety above all else has been the guiding principle!”

Responding to the Dr Harsh Vardhan’s attack, Tewari said his concerns were “real and not imagined” and accused the Health Minister of hiding behind “vaccine nationalism”. “It is not fear Mongering. Look what is happening in Norway. It may be a different vaccine but do not hide behind vaccine nationalism,” he wrote on Twitter. “Expected better of you sir.”

Earlier today, Tewari questioned the basis on which the two vaccines — Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin — were granted approval. He further alleged that the Covaxin vaccine was cleared “sans due process”.

Tewari was referring to 23 deaths in Norway a short time after receiving their first dose of the vaccine. According to the Norwegian Medicines Agency, of those deaths, 13 have been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people.

A few hours before PM Narendra Modi launched the nationwide inoculation exercise, the Congress leader tweeted: “It is all a bit puzzling. India has no policy framework for authorising emergency use. Yet, two vaccines have been approved for restricted use in emergency situation.”

India flagged off the world’s biggest inoculation drive yet earlier today, with three crore healthcare and frontline workers first in line to be vaccinated against the deadly disease. On Day 1, around 100 beneficiaries each will be given the first shots of the two indigenous Covid-19 vaccines at 3,006 session sites across the country.





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