The Minister informed that while no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021. Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that the Government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 under the Chairmanship of Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunize majority of the population. “Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely”, he stated. He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.
Further, he said that the Government is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination especially in the case of senior citizens & people working in high-risk settings. “This shall be done after a consensus has been reached”, he said.
To allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, he said he will be happy to take the first dosage of vaccine if some people have a trust deficit.
Elaborating on the vaccine candidates and their development in India, he said that Department of Bio-Technology (DBT), as well as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), have been pro-active in responding to the emerging situation to support the advancement of vaccine candidates. India is actively partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and trials at different phases are ongoing with respect to several vaccines in Indian laboratories (private or public) and hospitals.
The Minister also noted that a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity to COVID-19 at a much faster pace as compared to the natural infection. It is hoped that a consensus will emerge in the next few months over the desired level of protective herd immunity in any community, he stated.