Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan sparred on Twitter on Saturday with the Opposition leader raising questions over the emergency use approval given to the indigenously developed vaccine Covaxin and the Bharatiya Janata Party leader hitting back alleging that Tewari was only passionate about spreading rumours.
India recently granted two vaccines -- Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin -- approval on restricted emergency use.
In the backdrop of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in the country, Tewari raised questions over the emergency use approval given to the indigenously developed vaccine Covaxin and alleged that it was 'sans due process'.
'As vaccine roll-out begins, it is all a bit puzzling India has no policy framework for authorising emergency use. Yet, two vaccines have been approved for restricted use in emergency situation,' Tewari said in a tweet just before Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the vaccination drive.
'COVAXIN is another story -- Approvals sans Due Process,' the former Union minister added, tagging a media report which claimed that scientists and doctors are divided on the issue of restricted use approval granted to the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
Responding to Tewari's remarks raising questions over approval to Covaxin, Vardhan, in a tweet, quoted English cleric Charles Caleb Colton who said, 'So blinded are we by our passions that we suffer more to be damned than to be saved.'
'Sh @ManishTewari & @INCIndia are only passionate about spreading distrust & rumours. Open your eyes, sharing photos of eminent Doctors & Govt functionaries getting inoculated,' Vardhan tweeted and posted pictures from the inoculation drive that began earlier in the day.
Hitting back at Vardhan for his jibe, Tewari said, 'Dear Dr @drharshvardhan, Concerns that I have articulated are real & not imagined.
'It is not fear Mongering. Look what is happening in Norway. It may be a different vaccine but do not hide behind vaccine nationalism. ANS QUES's Expected better of you Sir.'
Addressing Tewari, in another tweet, the Union health minister said the science behind COVID-19 vaccines is resolute.
'Our scientists have worked at lightning speed to expedite functions that contribute to development of a vaccine but not a single function has been circumvented. Safety above all else has been the guiding principle!' he said.
Tagging Vardhan's tweet, Tewari said, 'Well @drharshvardhan since you say so & as you are aware that I have deep personal regard for you I am more than willing to take your word for it. However, why is the medical fraternity so deeply divided over the safety,reliability & efficacy of COVAXIN?'
Tewari also shared a letter on Twitter which was purportedly from the Resident Doctor Association (RDA) of the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to the medical superintendent of the hospital in which apprehensions were expressed over the use of Covaxin in the vaccination drive for the resident doctors.
'Is this letter a genuine or a fake? A journalist sent it to me. Just bringing it to your attention. kind of FYA (for your attention),' Tewari tweeted along with the letter.
Earlier this month, senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor had also raised concerns over India's drugs regulator's nod to restricted use of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine.
However, there were different voices within the party as its chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had lauded scientists and researchers of Bharat Biotech for the indigenous vaccine.
The BJP, in response to the criticism by some Congress leaders, had hit out at the Congress with party president J P Nadda alleging that whenever India achieves something commendable the opposition party comes up with 'wild theories' to 'ridicule' the accomplishments.