The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Saturday defended its claim of launching Covaxin – the vaccine for Covid-19 – on Independence Day on August 15.

ICMR claimed that the process of the launch is in “accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development.”

“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel,” the ICMR said in a statement.

The premier medical body’s response came after it was questioned about the nearly impossible timeline for getting the vaccine ready for the use.

Earlier in the week, a letter was sent by the ICMR chief saying that it envisaged the launch of coronavirus vaccine by Independence Day. The letter also asked the doctors in 12 hospitals to fast track the clinical trials.

Defending the letter, the ICMR said, “The letter by DG-ICMR to investigators of the clinical trial sites was meant to cut unnecessary red tape, without bypassing any necessary process, and speed up recruitment of participants.”

“Just as red tape was not allowed to become a hindrance in the fast track approval of new indigenous testing kits or for introducing in the Indian market potential COVID-19 related drugs, the indigenous vaccine development process has also been sought to be insulated from slow file movement. The aim is to complete these phases at the earliest so that population-based trials for efficacy could be initiated without delay,” ICMR said.

“ICMR’s process is exactly in accordance with the globally accepted norms to fast-track the vaccine development for diseases of pandemic potential wherein human and animal trials can continue in parallel,” the agency added.

The letter further added, “While issues raised in the public domain from time-to-time by commentators are welcome, as they form an important part of the feedback loop, the best of India’s medical professionals and research scientists should not be second-guessed for their professionalism or adherence to the highest scientific rigour. ICMR is committed to treat the safety and interest of people of India as a topmost priority.”

The ICMR claims have raised the eyebrows of many, including prominent medical professionals, who question the quickness of making the vaccine.

The Indian Express quoted AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, the head of the clinical research group of the national task force on COVID-19, as calling it a “very challenging and difficult task.”

“Also, if we get the desired results, the other challenge is the process of mass production of the vaccine,” he said.