According to the Health Ministry, eight out of nine members that participated in the virtual meeting-agreed and approved the recommendations except Dr. B. Gupta from NDMC Medical College and Hindu Rao Hospital who expressed some concerns about the vaccine candidate.
The identity of the SEC members, which has been kept under wraps, was disclosed by the Ministry in response to a Rajya Sabha question on March 23.
The 10 members include Dr. Varsha Gupta, Professor, Department of Microbiology, Government Medical College Hospital, Chandigarh, Archana Thakur, Medical Director, Professor and HOD (Microbiology), G.B. Pant Hospital, Delhi, Abhishek Agarwal, Emeritus Professor, Department of Medicine, SMS Medical College, Jaipur, Sushant H. Meshram, Professor and Head, Pulmonary Medicine Department, Government Medical College and Hospital, Nagpur, Anant Mohan, Professor and Head, Pulmonary Medicine, AIIMS, Delhi, A.P. Dubey, Professor of Paediatrics, ESI (PGIMSR) Hospital, Delhi, Arvind Bagga, Professor, Department of Paediatrics, AIIMS, Delhi, Dipendra K. Mitra, Professor and Head, Transplant Immunology and Immunogenetics Department, AIIMS, Delhi, B. Gupta, Professor, General Medicine Department, NDMC Medical College and Hindu Rao Hospital, Delhi, and D.S. Arya, Professor, Department of Pharmacology, AIIMS, Delhi.
Former health secretary Sujatha Rao said the committee doesn’t have vaccine experts. “The committee is Delhi centric and dominated by disciplines not connected to vaccines and clinical research. Like in the US such important committees should be multidisciplinary with virologist, persons having a background in cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, public health and experience of conducting clinical research,” she said.
Health lawyer Murali Neelakantan expressed concerns given that the government tried to keep it a secret one could easily infer that it was something that the government was not keen for the public to know. “One only has to look at the composition of similar committees in the US for what it should have been,” he said.
According to Rao, when membership to committees is seen as an act of patronage then this happens. “It’s unfortunate as SEC is such a vitally important committee and we have such solid expertise in the country. SECs must inspire confidence or trust which is very critical for scaling up vaccinations. US is a good example”.
Public health experts had earlier raised concerns on the grant of restricted use approval to Covaxin as there was no efficacy data available at the time. The approval came to Covaxin then came with riders though.