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No pressure on drug regulator to approve Covid vaccines, says NITI Aayog member VK Paul

Speaking at a FICCI event, Paul says the govt will wait till all parameters are met. Bharat Biotech MD Krishna Ella slams the media for covering the vaccine issue like a ‘Bollywood movie’.

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New Delhi: Ruling out any pressure on the drug regulator — Drug Controller General of India — to take a decision on approving Covid-19 vaccines, NITI Aayog member V.K. Paul Saturday said a final call on granting emergency use authorisation will be taken based on “sound scientific principles” in the coming days.

“There is no pressure on the regulatory body. We accept their decisions. The decision on vaccines will be taken by a panel, which represents India’s scientific capital. We will wait till all parameters are met (and) when our regulator will say safe. If we compromise today, we will be hurting our cause,” said Paul, addressing the FICCI’s 93rd annual general meeting.

“There are six vaccines currently under trial in our country. This is a landmark moment for Indian science and Indian industry,” he added.

Explaining in detail the different processes that are being followed with regard to vaccine approval, Paul said the Indian government is “in touch with the UK’s regulator regarding the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being developed by the Serum Institute of India, Pune”. 

“Serum Institute has a phenomenal capacity to produce (vaccine). If this succeeds, we will be able to meet not just our, but the requirement of the world too,” Paul said.

Also read: Why the vaccine approval fight is a dangerous game

Media wants to ‘sensationalise’ Covid vaccine matter

Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech Managing Director Krishna Ella, who was also present at the event, came down heavily on the media for its coverage of the issue of Covid vaccine

“We are not inhuman people. We are more sensitive than the press. There is 200 per cent transparency, but volunteers have to be protected. There is a certain level of confidentiality. It seems media people need more education than all of us. They want to sensationalise. They want to make a Bollywood movie,” he said.

Commenting on the role of the media, Paul said the fight against coronavirus will be won by science alone whether in the form of vaccines or any drug discovery. 

“You (media) have a right to ask questions, but you need to believe in the scientific institutions,” he said.

‘Vaccine roll-out will depend on licensure’

Giving details of how the vaccine will be rolled out and who all will receive it on priority, Paul said the government has studied and is planning to vaccinate those who are most at risk such as people above 50 years of age, the frontline workers and those with comorbidities below 50 years of age.

“Not everyone can get it (vaccine). Those who are most needy should get it first. We have priorities. Considering protecting the health system is crucial as the virus can come back, we cannot have the health system to be weak,” he added.

Paul said India will be ready for rolling out vaccines depending on their licensure.

He also stressed on the fact that mental health issues are quite crucial and with the public health system being quite stressed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the private sector needs to do their bit.

Speaking at the event, Lord David Prior, chair, NHS England, said: “We must win public confidence in the efficacy and safety of the vaccine”.

Also read: China’s Covid vaccines are already being distributed. But what about trials?


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