New Delhi: PETA India the animal rights organisation, (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) has written to DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) requesting them to stop using Newborn Calf Serum (NBCS) in the production of Covaxin, the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). NBCS is extracted from the blood of slaughtered calves under 20 days old.
Through the letter sent to Dr VG Somani on Thursday, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) requested DGCI to direct vaccine manufacturers to consider replacing NBCS with animal-free chemical solutions after reports surfaced that Covaxin, India's indigenous vaccine, uses NBCS during the production stage.
The calves used to extract NBCS are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, traumatising both mother and calf, according to Dr Ankita Pandey, PETA India Science Policy Adviser. PETA's letter said that the use of NBCS should not be allowed as The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughterhouse) Rules, 2001, prohibits the slaughter of pregnant animals and animals under three months of age, and many states in India have banned the slaughter of cows, calves and sometimes bulls and buffaloes. Also, importing vaccines made of NBCS should be stopped, the letter said.
The letter went on to say that using animal serum in manufacturing should be stopped since chances of contamination of vaccine by nonhuman proteins and pathogens are also high, ultimately compromising the quality and reproducibility of the vaccine. PETA reasoned that the use of animal serum might also delay vaccine production if shortages are experienced as production increases. It said that animal-free media is already available commercially so that Vero cells can be cultured using it. In the end, PETA mentioned the religious, cultural and emotional sentiments the "public" extends towards cows and calves.
PETA said that they are working on ending the use of animals to produce serum and added that PETA Consortium International has online resources that researchers can use to replace foetal bovine serum and NBCS in cell culture media.
PETA India wrote to DGCI a day after the Centre released the clarification that Covaxin does not have NBCS. NBCS is used only during the preparation of Vero cells and iIn the vaccine production process, NBCS is completely removed with chemicals before being infected with coronavirus, the government had explained.
(Based on IANS feed with minor edits)