Covaxin approval rushed under political pressure? Govt rubbishes reports


The Union Health Ministry on 17 November has issued a statement that media reports claiming regulatory approval for Covaxin was rushed due to political pressure are misleading and fallacious

The ministry said that government and the CDSCO followed a scientific approach and prescribed norms in approving COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorization.

“The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) met on 1st and 2nd January, 2021 and after due deliberations made recommendations in respect of proposal for Restricted Emergency Approval of COVID-19 virus vaccine of M/s Bharat Biotech, it further added.

“There have been media reports claiming that Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, “had to skip certain processes” and “speed” up clinical trials due to political pressure, the ministry said.

Furthermore, Bharat Biotech too has condemned the claims and said that there was no external pressure to accelerate development of Covaxin.

In a statement, the company wrote, “We condemn targeted narrative against COVAXIN put forth by a select few individuals and groups who have no expertise in vaccines or vaccinology. It is well known that they helped perpetuate misinformation and fake news throughout the pandemic.”

“They are unable to comprehend global product development and licensure processes. There was no external pressure to accelerate development of COVAXIN, it said.

The Ministry also said that the reports claimed that there were several irregularities in the three phases of the clinical trials conducted for the vaccine.

“These media reports are completely misleading, fallacious and ill-informed. It is clarified that Government of India and the national regulator i.e. CDSCO have followed a scientific approach and prescribed norms in approving COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use authorisation,” the ministry stated.

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) met on January 1 and 2, 2021 and after due deliberations made recommendations in respect of proposal for Restricted Emergency Approval of COVID-19 virus vaccine of Bharat Biotech.

Before Covaxin was approved for restricted emergency use in January 2021, the Subject Expert Committee reviewed the data on safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine and recommended for grant of permission for restricted use in emergency situation in public interest as an abundant precaution, in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains.

The SEC’s approval for commencement of phase 3 clinical trial of proposed dose of Covaxin was based on scientific data presented by Bharat Biotech and established practices in this regard, the ministry said.

Moreover, the purported ‘unscientific changes’ in clinical trials of Covaxin, as claimed in the news reports, were made after submission made by Bharat Biotech in CDSCO, compliance of due process in CDSCO and with approval from the DGCI.

Based on further submission made by Bharat Biotech and assessment of interim efficacy and safety data by SEC of CDSCO, the condition of administration of COVID-19 vaccine in ‘clinical trial mode’ was removed on March 11, 2021, the ministry said.

Authorisation to COVID-19 vaccines including Covaxin for restricted use in emergency situation with various conditions and restrictions were granted by the national regulator only on the recommendations of the Subject Expert Committee of CDSCO.

The Subject Expert Committee consists of domain knowledge experts from the fields of pulmonology, immunology, microbiology, pharmacology, paediatrics, internal medicine, etc

Furthermore, Bharat Biotech too has condemned the claims of media reports stating that the regulatory approval for Covaxin was rushed due to political pressure.

In a statement, the company wrote, “We condemn targeted narrative against COVAXIN put forth by a select few individuals and groups who have no expertise in vaccines or vaccinology. It is well known that they helped perpetuate misinformation and fake news throughout the pandemic.”

The company further added there was no external pressure to accelerate development of COVAXIN.

“They are unable to comprehend global product development and licensure processes. There was no external pressure to accelerate development of COVAXIN, it said.

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