LAHORE: The Punjab government has sought explanation from University of Health Sciences (UHS) Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Dr Javed Akram for announcing the test of Australian vaccine COVAX-19 on active coronavirus patients in Lahore.
Prof Akram told a media briefing on Thursday that the varsity would test vaccine after preliminary data from its phase-I trials on animals showed it was safe for humans and could generate an immune response.
This Punjab government has now stopped the UHS from testing the vaccine and sought a report from the VC to be submitted to the chief minister and chancellor of the university till Aug 11 and barred him from speaking to reporters till further order.
On Thursday last, Prof Akram said the randomised test of the vaccine would initially be conducted on 50 active Covid-19 patients aged below 60.
“Twenty-five participants will receive two doses of the vaccine three weeks apart, and as many others will be given a placebo (a substance that has no therapeutic effect, used as a control in testing new drugs)”, he said, adding the patients would then have blood tests to measure their protective antibody and T-cell responses induced by the vaccine.
Reacting to his scheme, the specialized healthcare & medical education department through a Aug 7 letter told the VC for not seeking permission from the Punjab government.
It stated that the announcement of such a trial without any lawful clearance from the authorities concerned has not only caused embarrassment to the government but also caused undue public expectation and general panic.
“This is prima facie conduct unbecoming of a person of your stature, being vice chancellor of a premium public sector medical university”, reads the Punjab government letter.
The government also raised some questions to be answered by the VC if the clinical trials have been approved by any competent forum in the federal or provincial government before making a public statement or (you) took this decision at your own level.
The letter sought his motives to release such statements to the media as a VC of a public university.
The government asked about the approvals obtained from the competent forum for entering into a clinical/financial arrangement with foreign entities.It also linked the VC’s initiative with the unethical and unprofessional act as a senior and seasoned medical professional.
“Why action should not be taken against you for expressing your views and giving statements on electronic and print media which are against the public policy and are prejudicial to the government stance on such matters?” the Punjab government says, directing him to submit a report.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020