Congress leader claims Covaxin contains calf serum, govt says facts being twisted

Citing an RTI response, Congress’s Gaurav Pandhi claimed that it suggested that newborn calf serum was used by Bharat Biotech to make the Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin. After the tweet went viral on social media, the government dismissed the allegations, while adding that facts have been twisted and misrepresented in the Congress leader’s posts.

Congress leader Gaurav Pandhi on Tuesday made sensational claims about the component of Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Sharing an RTI document on his Twitter account, the Congress leader claimed that Covaxin contains the serum of a newborn calf.

Congress’s Gaurav Pandhi based his claims on an RTI response from the Central Drugs Controller General to Vikas Patni, the man who filed the query.

“In an RTI response, the Modi Govt has admitted that Covaxin consists newborn calf serum …..which is a portion of clotted blood obtained from less than 20 days young cow-calves, after slaughtering them. THIS IS HEINOUS! This information should have been made public before,” Gaurav Pandhi wrote on Twitter.

In another tweet, the Congress leader shared a research document that gave details on how calf serum is obtained.

What did the RTI say?

The RTI asked, “Does vaccines procedure use FBS in making of corona vaccines in any form, composition and ingredient made by Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute and approved by the Indian government of department?”

The answer to the RTI said, “As per information provided by the firm, newborn calf serum is used in the revival process of vero cells which are used in the production of coronavirus during manufacturing of Covaxin bulk vaccine of M/S Bharat Biotech.”

This led to a slew of tweets. While some raised questions on the vaccine, others discredited the claim.

Anand Ranganathan, a JNU professor wrote on Twitter, “Pl delete this tweet. 1. COVAXIN is the vaccine – it does NOT contain Calf serum as you allege. 2. Calves are NOT slaughtered for it. 3. Calf serum is used ONLY for growing cells to make more of the virus. 4. This information is ALREADY in the public domain since September 2020.”

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi also reacted to the claims. “Those who keep talking about the need for scientific temperament & research are now tweeting their disgust basis some RTI on Covaxin, adding to vaccine hesitancy by bringing religion-based choices to it. Please resist sliding down this slippery slope against vaccines.”

Facts Twisted: What did the government say in its statement?

The Union health ministry, meanwhile, issued a statement. There have been some social media posts regarding the composition of the Covaxin vaccine where it has been suggested that it contains the newborn calf serum, the government said.

“Facts have been twisted and misrepresented in these posts. Newborn calf serum is used only for the preparation/growth of vero cells. Different kinds of bovine and other animal serum are standard enrichment ingredient used globally for vero cell growth. Vero cells are used to establish cell lives which help in production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines,” the Centre’s statement added.

The government added, “These vero cells, after the growth, are washed with water, chemicals (also technically known as buffer), many a times to make it free from the newborn calf serum. Thereafter, these vero cells are infected with coronavirus for viral growth.”

The vero cells are completely destroyed in the process of viral growth, the Centre said, and added, “Thereafter this grown virus is also killed (inactivated) and purified. This killed virus is then used to make the final vaccine, and in the final vaccine formulation no calf serum is used.

Hence, the final vaccine (Covaxin) does not contain newborn calf serum at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product.”

What has Bharat Biotech said about the claims?

The makers of Covaxin, Bharat Biotech, have also responded to the allegations levelled by the Congress leader.

“Covaxin contains 6µg of whole-virion inactivated SARSCoV-2 antigen (Strain: NIV-2020-770), and the other inactive ingredients such as aluminum hydroxide gel (250 µg), TLR 7/8 agonist (imidazoquinolinone) 15 µg, 2-phenoxyethanol 2.5 mg, and phosphate buffer saline up to 0.5 ml. The vaccine (Covaxin) thus has been developed by using inactivated/killed virus along with the aforementioned chemicals. The vaccine (Covaxin) thus has been developed by using inactivated/killed virus along with the aforementioned chemicals,” Bharat Biotech stated in its fact sheet.

Source: India Today


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