Overselling Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin with ‘anecdotal evidence’ won’t uphold scientific temper

By: |
January 19, 2021 4:45 AM

Top medicos taking Covaxin in a very publicised manner seeks to promote ‘faith’ in the vaccine rather than establish its credentials

Guleria, indeed, after the approval for Covaxin, had said that the vaccine would be used as a “back-up”.Guleria, indeed, after the approval for Covaxin, had said that the vaccine would be used as a “back-up”.

Given their renown in Indian science, it is rather odd that Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS, and VK Paul, member, NITI Aayog, should have been amenable to receive Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine-candidate, Covaxin, in a much-publicised manner. While Covaxin has received restricted use approval, pending phase 3 efficacy data, in a ‘clinical trial’ mode, it has run into controversy since, with many senior scientists having questioned the rather hurried approval and the fact that, despite the ‘restricted use’ talk, the Centre has said that recipients won’t get a choice between Oxford-AstraZeneca/Serum Institute’s Covishield and Covaxin. Against such a backdrop, well-known senior scientists receiving Covaxin in a publicised manner seems more like an effort to bolster ‘faith’. Using anecdotal evidence—as opposed to a comprehensive study to establish facts—doesn’t make for great science. Guleria, indeed, after the approval for Covaxin, had said that the vaccine would be used as a “back-up”.

This is not to disparage the work of Indian scientists or companies, it is to highlight the need to uphold scientific temper. Had the government waited for Bharat Biotech to present its interim efficacy data, people would have taken the shots sans apprehensions. However, the government obscured the whole process. An Indian vaccine would certainly find global fame if its credentials are established following due process, rather than over-selling it.

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