Union minister Dr Harsh Vardhan Thursday wrote to Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo, who has gone public with his concerns about Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. The primary concerns of the state are the inhibitions regarding the "incomplete third phase trials" of the vaccine and the "absence of expiration date on the vials", Mr Deo had tweeted, enclosing his letter to the Centre on the issue. He had also requested the Centre to "halt the supply of COVAXIN to Chhattisgarh until these issues are addressed".
A Congress-ruled state, Chhattisgarh had earlier expressed its reservations about Covaxin.
In his letter, Dr Harsh Vardhan gave a detailed explanation. He also pointed out that the state has been way behind in its vaccination schedule, an issue which has been of growing concern to the Centre.
▪️The absence of expiration date on the vials of the vaccine.— TS Singh Deo (@TS_SinghDeo) February 11, 2021
I have requested him to halt the supply of COVAXIN to Chhattisgarh until these issues are addressed to the satisfaction of our Health Department to avoid the wastage of the early expiration doses of the drug. (2/2)
Covaxin, which was yet to complete its third phase of trials before being approved for use by the country's drug regulator last month, is being used in clinical trial mode, meaning its recipients are being monitored. In Delhi, it is being administered to healthcare workers in the six Centrally-run hospitals.
In his response, Dr Harshvardhan said all vaccines supplied to states are "safe and immunogenic" and should be used expeditiously.
"Your concern regarding unavailability of expiry date on Covaxin vial is also completely unfounded and without basis as the same is mentioned on the label of vaccine vials,"the minister wrote, attaching a photo of a vial with the label.
The Union minister also pointed out that while Chhattisgarh has "achieved 69.87% coverage of its Health Care Workers by giving them the first dose of the vaccine, the state has been able to cover only 9.55% of its 2,09,512 Front Line Workers through the first dose of the vaccine."
"You would appreciate that this coverage needs to improve significantly since adequate quantity of both the vaccines are available with the State," the letter read.
Last week, Dr VK Paul, Chairman of National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration, had said 12 states have vaccinated less than 40 per cent of their registered healthcare workers.
While several public health experts have pointed to vaccine hesitancy -- people's reluctance to go ahead with the vaccination – as a key reason for the slow pace. Mr Paul had said that vaccine hesitancy "has ended".
"It may still be there at an individual level, but largely it is not there," he had said, adding the country is heading towards 1 crore vaccinations soon and the pace is going to pick up further.