'In six months' time I will come out with a vaccine'
Professor Gobardhan Das was the first immunologist in India to talk about the impact the BCG vaccine had in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.
Though he had been urging the authorities to start immunising the population with the vaccine to fight the coronavirus, his plea went unheard, unheeded.
Though his proposal was rejected, the health ministry has now approved of a clinical trial of the BCG vaccine at various institutions in India including AIIMS, Delhi.
"Now, when the US, Germany, the UK, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, etc have started conducting clinical trials, those who criticised my idea made a 180-degree turn and approved clinical trials," Professor Das, below, tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com.
You were the first scientist in India to talk about the efficacy of the BCG vaccine in giving immunity to fight the coronavirus.
Now the health ministry has approved a clinical trial of the BCG vaccine in various institutions in India.
I am happy that what I have been talked about is accepted now. I had said that the BCG vaccine which contains a live, weakened version of Mycobacterium Bovis, can give immunity against the coronavirus.
I had written about it on social media. I had also written to the health minister that Mycobacterium Indicus Pranii would be an even more powerful vaccine.
I am happy that this has been approved by the ministry now.
Everybody is aware that I was the first one in India to talk about the efficacy of the BCG vaccine.
'BCG vaccine can be a game-changer against coronavirus'
Though I had been writing to the health minister about the idea, I was not consulted when they decided to go for a clinical trial. It would have been nice if I was taken in the team.
Why do you think you are sidelined?
Perhaps they feel they do not need scientists, and need only doctors.
But I feel such committees should consist of doctors, scientists and also epidemiologists. I don't know why they chose to ignore scientists.
But I am happy that finally they feel the idea is worth following up though initially they were against it.
ICMR said then that there was no scientific proof in what you were saying.
I put forth the idea only after comparing incidence and mortality data from all over the world.
Instead of discussing the idea, these organisations simply criticised it, and brushed it aside as one without any scientific proof.
But in 15-20 days's time, they took a 180-degree turn and decided to conduct clinical trials.
As a scientist, did you feel hurt that you were ignored?
We are human beings and we all look for appreciation. We feel happy when we are appreciated. Not only scientists, but every human being needs appreciation.
In this case, I was not just appreciated but ignored too.
Do you think the health ministry decided to approve clinical trials because all over the world, trials on the BCG vaccine are going on? Texas A&M University is leading one of the biggest trials on the BCG vaccine.
The truth is when Indians come out with an idea, it is not valued in India especially when it comes from a small person like me. The same ideas get validated when it is accepted abroad. That has been our way of life.
When you wrote about my idea, there were only very few countries talking about the BCG vaccine, and trials had not even started then. Today, many countries are doing clinical trials.
But the fact is, nobody in India cared about what I was saying. They did not give any attention to my idea.
First, I was ignored, and then my idea was criticised.
Now, when the entire world has accepted the idea and countries like the US, Germany, the UK, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, etc have started conducting clinical trials, those who criticised my idea made a 180-degree turn and approved clinical trials.
This attitude really hurts.
I still feel it is not too late to include scientists in the team so that you can show the world which strain works.
Also, why do you give the authority to conduct clinical trials to a private company?
What should the ministry have been doing instead of asking a pharma company to conduct the trials?
We should be open about the clinical trials so that we can tell the world what we discover about the vaccine.
We shouldn't keep the results within ourselves, we should let the whole world know about the results.
That way, we can lead the world in the fight against the virus.
When I was talking about BCG vaccine, nobody gave a damn. Now, they have given approval to some company to do the trials.
What is needed is transparency and good scientific leadership.
This guy was totally ignored by HarshVardhan ... Looks like he is a member of BJP but no one paid attention. So he is trying to bash them ..