The World Health Organization (WHO) rejected the emergency use authorization submission for Covaxin, the indigenously developed Indian COVID-19 vaccine developed by a partnership involving the apex research institute ICRM and the biotech venture Bharat Biotech. Actually, India’s first indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Food, and Drug Administration (FDA), already rejected a request for EUA back in the summer. In a blow to millions of Indian students and professionals that need to travel to other countries, their Covaxin vaccine won’t pass muster and must go get vaccinated again with a WHO-approved vaccine. Is Bharat Biotech and ICMR paying for an accelerated less than transparent effort?
In a recent statement, the All-India People’s Science Network (AIPSN) noted with “sorrow and grave concern” the WHO moves to reject the Covaxin EUL request. Rather WHO requested more technical details. Considered a “serious setback” for the Indian COVID-19 vaccine as well as for the vaccine development program in India, most importantly, AIPSN reports it’s “a blow to India’s plans to distribute vaccines to other countries.”
For example, many Indians travel worldwide for work or as a student and have already received Covaxin as a COVID-19 vaccine. Now they find it exceedingly difficult to find VISAs to travel to their destination as they must now take a WHO-approved vaccine. AIPSN declared, “This sorry state of affairs will continue as long as there is no public accountability, transparency, along with scientific rigor.”
Because the developers of Covaxin trial data were less than transparent with their data, the application to WHO was considered “flawed.” Now AIPSN suggests “serious damage” to India’s reputation—a situation that “Besmirched the standing of Indian science and regulatory systems, which will now come under heightened international scrutiny and suspicion.” That’s because “Bharat Biotech applied to DCGI for EUA with grossly inadequate data from clinical trials inviting rejection, followed by behind-the-scenes twisting by government which resulted in the grant of EUA.” Thereafter the company did release some more Phase 3 in chunks over time. Bharat Biotech hasn’t yet published results in a peer-review journal.
The All-India Peoples Science Network is a network of over forty Peoples Science organizations spread all over the country. The AIPSN started its activities as a network of activist organizations involved in Science Popularization and in examining related to the interface of science with society. Since the pioneering efforts of the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, in 1987, supported by the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), the AIPSN has emerged as a pioneer in activities related to science communication and popularization.
The AIPSN, which had its initial thrust in the area of Science Communication, pioneered the efforts of adult literacy in the country in 1990. It nucleated the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, which went on to spearhead the Total Literacy Campaigns in Districts across the country in partnership with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The success of the literacy movements and the subsequent integration of several state-level BGVS organizations in the AIPSN significantly increased the reach of the AIPSN to over half the districts in the country. The literacy movements in the AIPSN have now built on the massive mobilization achieved through the total literacy programs and include activities related to continuing education, school education, women’s empowerment, co-operative credit movements, rural micro-enterprises, etc.