Jharkhand Health Minister Banna Gupta on Saturday said that people should not be made “lab rats” in order to administer the coronavirus vaccine, reported ANI. Gupta’s statement came amid a controversy over emergency-use approval given to Bharat Biotech’s shot Covaxin without making results of its third phase human trials public.

“Before using any vaccine, Centre should adjudge its authenticity, relevance and utility,” Gupta said, while speaking to reporters. “People of this country should not be made lab rats.” He further said that the Jharkhand government would stand with the Centre on the matter of vaccines as it involved public welfare, and assured that political differences would not come in the way.

Since it received approval on January 3, Covaxin has faced reservations from various sections. In fact, a day before the clearance, an expert committee on vaccine had said that its efficacy was yet to be demonstrated. Last week, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Dr Randeep Guleria had said that Serum Institute of India’s Covishield would be used in the initial phase of the vaccination drive, and Covaxin would be used in emergency situations or as a backup. Then on Tuesday, Indian Council of Medical Research chief Balram Bhargava clarified that the Bharat Biotech vaccine had been cleared in the clinical trial mode.

Meanwhile, earlier during the day, four organisations of survivors of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy wrote to the prime minister and health minister asking to stop the trials of the vaccine in the city, alleging flouting of guidelines related to consent for the exercise. The letter came amid controversy over the death of a 45-year old volunteer in Bhopal, allegedly during the clinical trial of the vaccine. The deceased volunteer was a survivor of the Union Carbide gas leak tragedy.

On Saturday, the Union health ministry had announced that the vaccination programme in the country would begin from January 16, after harvest festivals such as Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Magh Bihu.