Newly inducted Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandavia during the monsoon Parliament session told at the Rajya Sabha that India will become the first country to develop a DNA-based Covid-19 vaccine.
Referring to Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, the world’s first plasmid DNA Covid vaccine, the minister said that it is with ‘great pride’ that Indian scientists will be the first to develop a DNA vaccine. The vaccine candidate has applied for the Drug Controller General of India’s emergency use authorisation.
Mandaviya further informed that Adar Poonawalla’s Serum Institute of India is providing 11-12 crore doses of Covishield every month. Another vaccine candidate from Biological E is also conducting a third-phase trial of the vaccine. The vaccine will come to market by September-October with 7.5 crore doses.
Further responding to the Opposition’s accusations that Covid-19 deaths have been underreported, Mandaviya in his defence said that it is the states that register cases and record deaths related to Covid-19 complications, and the Centre has no role to play in this. He further asked why will states under record deaths of there are no penalties for the same.
When asked about the vaccine shortage, Mandavia replied that the Centre has allotted 15 to 20 lakh vaccine doses to some states and they are still asking the Centre to increase the pace of vaccination. When questioned about the Centre’s decision to impose nationwide lockdown last year, Mandaviya said that it was necessary to build adequate health infrastructure where medical practitioners get PPT kits, N-95 masks.
Talking about the Centre’s preparedness for the third wave, he told to the House that 1, 573 oxygen plants will be built at hospitals. 316 of them has already been commissioned and the rest will start operations by August end.
Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Puri later criticised Opposition for spreading vaccine hesitancy for questioning their efficacy, especially the made-inn-India vaccines. He further added that only after States failed to procure vaccines themselves, Centre had to take charge.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge, called government figures especially the Covid-19 death toll figure of 4-5 lakh is “false” and claimed the average number of deaths is nothing less than 52.4 lakh. He also criticised the government for giving little notice to people before nationwide lockdown and not taking responsibility for the loss of livelihood of migrant workers. He even produced photographs of dead bodies on the banks of River Ganga to questions the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the issue of social and economic consequences of the pandemic, black-marketing of life-saving drugs and mental health crisis amongst others. DMK’s Tiruchi Siva alleged disparity of vaccine distribution. Trinamool MP Dr Santanu Sen questioned holding eight-phase elections in Bengal during a raging pandemic. TDP member Ravindra Kumar requested the centre for fair compensation to families of the deceased I and a policy in this regard.