Akhilesh makes amends over vaccine remark, says did not insult scientists

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Lucknow, Jan 4 (PTI) Two days after Akhilesh Yadav said he will not get himself injected with a “BJP vaccine” against coronavirus, the Samajwadi Party chief asserted Monday that he had never insulted the scientists who developed it.

Yadav’s comment on Saturday that he could not trust a vaccine which would be used by a BJP government had triggered sharp reactions from the ruling party as well as leaders like Omar Abdullah of the National Conference.

The SP chief had tried to make amends on Twitter the same day, saying he was not referring to the scientists.

Questioned again by reporters on his remarks, the SP asked the Centre to tell when the poor people in the state will get the anti-COVID shot and if it will be available free.

'I have never raised any questions on any scientist developing the vaccine or any person helping in making the vaccine. I only raised questions on the BJP as people do not have faith in the party because of the decisions taken by it,” he said.

But he appeared to raise doubts again against the vaccines set to be rolled out in the country in the coming days, asking what happened with the Haryana minister who had got himself vaccinated.

“The government hospital could not treat him, so he went to a private hospital to save his life,' Yadav said.

The apparent reference was to Haryana’s Anil Vij who had tested positive for coronavirus days after taking part in a trial for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

It was however clarified then that not all participants in the trial were injected with the vaccine – a proportion of them were administered placebos. In any case, it needed two shots days apart for the immunity to kick in.

Akhilesh Yadav said after the “debate” on the vaccines, the government should come forward and remove all doubts.

'We want to know from the government when the poor people in the state will get vaccinated, and whether it will be free of cost or not,” he said.

“The government should tell its plan. First of all the people of the press should get vaccinated. I am saying this with full seriousness that you people risked your lives during the COVID-19 coverage, and some of your people lost their lives,' Yadav added.

On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya had termed Yadav’s vaccination remarks an ”insult” to the country’s doctors and scientists. BJP leaders have accused the Opposition of creating doubts over the vaccines, hampering the fight against the virus.

Yadav also targeted the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the Muradnagar tragedy in which at least 24 people died after a roof at a crematorium collapsed on Saturday.

He said the families of those killed should get Rs 50 lakh each as financial help.

The former chief minister questioned the state government’s claim on creating jobs.

“Had this really happened, not a single youth in Uttar Pradesh would have committed suicide,' The SP president said.

He also accused the BJP government of “copying” his government’s Samajwadi Pension Scheme, referring to PM Kisan Samman Nidhi under which small farmers get Rs 6,000 every year. PTI SLM NAV ASH ASH