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An unseemly battle of words has broken out between Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech (BB) that’s not doing anyone any good. On Sunday, SII’s chief Adar Poonawalla said that only the vaccines of Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca were effective, while others were “just like water". Since BB’s vaccine is the only one approved in India other than Oxford’s, which SII makes, the target of his derision was amply clear. On Monday, BB’s chairman Krishna Ella responded in kind, alleging the use of paracetamol pills aimed at suppressing adverse reactions during AstraZeneca trials.

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This public spat between the two rivals could hurt public confidence in vaccines, per se, and thus our efforts to quash covid. Whether a vaccine is effective and safe is a matter for the Drugs Controller General of India to decide. It’s scandalous that vaccine suppliers should show such blatant disregard for its approval process by openly dismissing each other’s okayed products. The Centre should create a mechanism that requires vaccine makers and other stakeholders to adopt a code of discipline and not speak in ways that undermine the national objective.

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