A COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by early next year and the government is considering its emergency authorisation for high-risk settings, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has said, asserting he will take the first dosage if there is any concern over its safety.
According to a health ministry statement, he said while no date has been fixed for the launch of a vaccine, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021, and made available first to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity,
The minister made these remarks during interaction with his social media followers on the ‘Sunday Samvad’ platform.
He covered a multitude of queries concerning not only the current COVID-19 situation, but also the government’s approach to it, the changes expected in the post COVID world and the steps taken by the Modi dispensation.
Vardhan stated the government is taking full precautions in human trials of vaccines 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 the majority of the population.
“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely,” he stated.
Further, he said the government is considering emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccination especially for senior citizens and people working in high-risk settings.
“This shall be done after a consensus has been reached,” he was quoted as saying the statement.
To allay any fear regarding the safety aspect of vaccines, he said he would be happy to take the first dosage “if people have a trust deficit”.
On vaccine candidates and their development in the country, he said India is actively partnering with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and trials of several vaccines at different phases are underway at laboratories (private or public) and hospitals.
The Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Medical Research have been proactive in responding to the emerging situation, he said.
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 said.
The minister, however, 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, the statement said. Vardhan highlighted how the pandemic became a turning point for Indian manufacturing.