Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told Rajya Sabha on Thursday that there is a possibility of a vaccine for COVID-19 to be out by early next year and that the government is aiming to bring down India’s mortality rate for the coronavirus to less than 1% from the current 1.64%.
The Minister said that the Science and Technology Ministry, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and drug companies, were working together to find a solution. “Vaccines can come in future. Extensive planning is underway to execute how to manage the scenario,” Dr. Vardhan said.
He said there are three vaccine candidates that have reached Phase 1, 2 or 3 levels. “Under the Prime Minister, an expert group is studying this. We expect by the beginning of next year, we can have a vaccine in the country. In this regard, we are also coordinating with WHO (World Health Organization) and global organisations,” he said. He claimed that India is among the few countries globally that have succeeded in isolating the virus.
Rebutting the Opposition parties’ criticism on the number of COVID-19 positive cases crossing 50 million, the Minister said that the active cases were less than 20%.
He also patted the government’s back, claiming that the country’s recovery rate of 78%-79% is one of the highest in the world. Deaths in India due to the coronavirus pandemic are less than many nations in Europe, he said. Citing the examples of Spain and Brazil, the Minister said the mortality rate in those countries was over 11 times that of India. “We want to bring the mortality rate to less than 1%. We have 50 lakh cases right now, but out of these, only 10 lakh are active cases in the country right now,” Dr. Vardhan said.
Currently, India is only second to the U.S. in the world in testing, which the government plans to improve, he said.
Replying to a query from Congress leader Anand Sharma on the basis of the government’s claims that the lockdown had reduced the number of cases by 14-29 lakh, Dr. Vardhan said that the government had derived the figures from the findings of five scientific bodies, including the Boston Consulting Group, PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India), and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. “These bodies did five studies and based on that we prepared this data,” Dr. Vardhan said.
Replying to another query on the use of the BCG vaccine for COVID-19, he said six clinical trials had been registered and the ICMR was a part of this study.