New Delhi: Asserting that scientific advances cannot be "made to order", CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Saturday alleged the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was trying to fast track the production of a coronavirus vaccine so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could make the announcement on Independence Day.
The apex research body on Friday wrote to select medical institutions and hospitals to fast-track clinical trial approvals for the coronavirus vaccine candidate Covaxin being developed in collaboration with Bharat Biotech which it plans to release on August 15.
"A vaccine would be the most decisive redemption from the pandemic. The world is waiting for a safe vaccine, which is universally accessible.
"But...scientific advances can never be 'made to order'. Forcing the development of an indigenous vaccine as a cure for COVID-19, bypassing all health & safety norms, to be announced by PM Modi on Independence Day is fraught with horrendous human costs," Yechury said in a tweet.
Accusing the ICMR of "using threats to get institutions to fall in line" Yechury said that some of the institutions like NIMS in Hyderabad are state government institutions.
"Has permission been given by Government of Telangana," he asked.
Asking a series of questions on the trials, Yechury enquired, "What is the number of people who will be studied in this trial? Will phase 1, 2 and 3 trials be completed and analysed by August 14? Who are the members of the independent Data Safety Monitoring Committee (DSMC)? Some serious questions need to be answered," he tweeted.
He asked how could the ICMR decide on vaccine launch date without regulator DCGI evaluating evidence of safety and efficacy. "What liability is ICMR assuming in aggressively pushing the trial of a vaccine produced by a private company," he asked.
The vaccine is derived from a strain of SARS-CoV-2 isolated by ICMR-National Institute of Virology, Pune. ICMR and BBIL are jointly working for the preclinical as well as clinical development of this vaccine, the letter by ICMR mentioned.
The letter written to medical institutions warned that any non-compliance would be viewed very seriously.
"Kindly note non-compliance will be viewed very seriously. Therefore, you are advised to treat this project on highest priority and meet the given timelines without any lapse," the letter stated.