“I shall be the first to offer myself for receiving COVID-19 vaccine if people have a trust deficit,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan while interacting on the Sunday Samvad social media platform.
The Minister answered queries concerning the situation, the government’s approach, the likely changes one expects to see in the post-pandemic world and the steps taken by the government in its facilitation.
He said while no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.
Precautions in conducting human trials
He said 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 immunise the majority of the population.
“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc. are also being discussed intensely,” he said and assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.
“The government is considering emergency authorisation 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.”
Elaborating on the vaccine candidates and their development in India, the Minister said the Department of Bio Technology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been pro-active in responding to the emerging situation to support advancement of the candidates.
Trials at different phases
The Minister said 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.
He said a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity 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.”