Covid-19 Vaccines Likely By 2021 First Quarter, Says Harsh Vardhan

Will be happy to take the first dose of the vaccine, the health minister said as he was interacting through Sunday Samvaad

India’s coronavirus infections are rising rapidly in some states yet, India’s recovery rate continues to rise which is a sigh of relief. Even as new cases are rising in an unstoppable fashion, research teams around the country are looking for a vaccine for support in these unprecedented times.

While interacting with his social media followers on ‘Sunday Samvad’, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “No date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.” He said 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 VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunize majority of the population.

“While no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021. I shall be the first to offer myself for receiving Covid-19 vaccine if people have a trust deficit.

He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.

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.

In order to make the healthcare cost reasonable and affordable for the common man, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that the Government has directed all States and UTs to fix a reasonable price for Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals. Free coverage up to Rs 5 lakhs for Covid patients for those who are eligible under the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY package was announced.

He added that the Central Government has also asked States/UTs to proactively engage with the private sector health providers and consider pooling in public and private healthcare facilities, as this will help in providing prompt, good quality and reasonable health care to Covid-19 patients. He has himself appealed to the private hospitals to refrain from over charging Covid patients, he stated.

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 advancement of vaccine candidates. India is actively partnering with 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.

According to Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India (SII), “Developing a vaccine is like riding a rollercoaster; there are plenty of ups and downs. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed, but we must be patient and not jump to conclusions too early. We must wait for all phase 3 trials to be completed.”

It must be noted that vaccine development is a long process with multiple stages and most important of all is human trials and in any trial fast-tracking the process could lead to severe consequences for the safety and the health of people. Therefore, patience is the key today; we are not far behind the world in terms of vaccine development till then we have to follow Covid protocols and guidelines of the government.

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