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4 Jan, 2021 14:10

People who don’t have ‘faith’ in India’s Covid vaccine are ‘mentally challenged,’ minister declares

People who don’t have ‘faith’ in India’s Covid vaccine are ‘mentally challenged,’ minister declares

People who have reservations about India’s newly-approved Covid-19 jab are likely feeble-minded, Dharmendra Pradhan, the country’s minister of petroleum and natural gas, has proclaimed.

In a rather indelicate screed, Pradhan said that coronavirus vaccines developed in India are “a special achievement” of the country’s pharmaceutical firms, and that those who worry about the efficacy of such drugs have no “faith in the scientists and power of India” and are “mentally challenged.”

Claiming that most Indians have welcomed the government’s vaccine initiative, Pradhan accused some lawmakers of being unreasonably critical of the jabs.

“Some mentally challenged people will never improve, especially the leadership of the Congress, which finds fault in everything,” he said. 

On Sunday, India officially gave emergency approval to Covishield, a drug developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute and based on the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, as well as Covaxin, created by Indian pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech. Covishield is believed to be at least 62-percent effective, a value considerably lower than competing drugs. Covaxin has not yet released stage-three trial data.

Some members of parliament have claimed that Covaxin has not yet been proven effective and that its approval was premature. 

MP Shashi Tharoor said the vaccine’s rollout showed that the government “prefers slogans over substance,” adding that “chest-thumping ‘vaccine nationalism’” has “trumped common sense and a generation of established scientific protocols.”

Other politicians have even more extreme criticisms of the jabs. The head of India’s Samajwadi (Socialist) Party, Ashutosh Sinha, expressed concern that the vaccines “might contain something which can cause harm,” and claimed that the drugs could cause “impotency” and “decrease the population.”

Dr Venugopal G. Somani, the Drugs Controller General of India told local media that the jabs are “110 percent safe,” in an attempt to dispel such rumors. 

However, his reassurances have not been well received by some in India’s medical community. Health watchdog All India Drug Action Network said it was "shocked” by Covaxin’s approval, adding that there were “intense concerns arising from the absence of the efficacy data.” 

India is currently mulling approval of several other vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, which has shown to be 91.4-percent effective. The Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which is believed to be 95-percent effective, is also being considered.

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