The Madras High Court has issued a notice to the central government over a petition to declare the Serum Institute of India's coronavirus vaccine - Covishield - "unsafe".
The petition was filed by a 41-year-old man from Chennai who was a volunteer for the third phase of the Covid vaccine trial and was administered a dose on October 1. He had alleged adverse effects from the vaccine trials, claiming "loss of creativity and business".
Covishield has been developed by the world's largest vaccine maker - Pune-based Serum Institute of India - in partnership with the Oxford University and the British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca. It was one of the two vaccines cleared by India's drug controller DCGI last month for emergency use; the other one was Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. More than 1 crore doses of vaccines have been administered across the country since January 16, the government data shows.
In his petition, the Chennai man has sought a declaration that Covishield "is not safe". He has also asked for a compensation of Rs 5 crore.
Last year, as the allegations had surfaced, the Serum Institute had denied the claims by the volunteer. The vaccine maker had also threatened to sue him for Rs 100 crore.
"The COVISHIELD vaccine is safe and immunogenic. The incident with the Chennai volunteer though highly unfortunate was in no way induced by the vaccine and Serum Institute of India is sympathetic with the volunteer's medical condition," Serum Institute had said in its statement at the time. It also defended its legal notice to the volunteer, saying it wanted to "safeguard the reputation of the company which is being unfairly maligned."
The wife of the vaccine volunteer, who is a marketing professional, had denied the charge that there was any motive in their legal notice to the vaccine-maker in November. "We could have sold our silence, we could have just sent a notice and gained something... But our hearts wouldn't let us do that," the woman told NDTV on phone from Chennai.
"My husband has lost his creativity and confidence after he was given the vaccine. Our aim is not compensation. Public ought to know about this".
Last month, the DCGI had assured that both the vaccines are "110 per cent" safe. "We'll never approve anything if there is slightest of safety concern. The vaccines are 110 per cent safe. Some side effects like mild fever, pain and allergy are common for every vaccine," Drug Controller General of India VG Somani had said.
"India took 34 days to achieve the landmark feat of 1 crore vaccinations, the second fastest in the world," the Health Ministry said in a statement today.