COVID-19 vaccine expected early next year, from more than one source, says Harsh Vardhan

Vardhan also informed that expert groups are working towards formulating a plan to distribute the vaccines in the country, how to decide the first recipients as well as strengthen the cold chain facilities in the country for vaccine storage

FP Staff October 13, 2020 19:24:01 IST
COVID-19 vaccine expected early next year, from more than one source, says Harsh Vardhan

File Image of Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. PTI

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday said that India was expected to have a vaccine against COVID-19 early next year and the vaccine was likely to be from more than one source.

Vardhan made the statement at the 21st meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19, which was also attended by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep S Puri. Mansukh Lal Mandaviya, Minister of State, Shipping (Independent Charge), Chemicals and Fertilisers.

Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State, Health and Family Welfare and Dr VK Paul Member (Health), NITI Aayog also joined the meeting virtually, as per a health ministry statement.

"We're expecting that early next year, we should have a vaccine in the country from maybe more than one source. Our expert groups are already formulating and devising strategies to plan on how to roll out the distribution of the vaccines in the country, who do we give the vaccine first and then, of course, we are strengthening the cold chain facilities," Dr Harsh Vardhan said during a meeting of the Group of Ministers.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Vardhan said it was hoped that by July next year capacity could be developed to provide 400-500 million doses of vaccines to 20-25 crore people in the country. A scientific strategy is being designed for the distribution fo the vaccine, he said.

Earlier too, the minister had said that a vaccine is likely to be available by the first quarter of 2021. On Sunday, Vardhan had said that the government has not taken a view on granting emergency use authorisation to vaccines and added that this would depend on the results of the clinical trials of the vaccines.

The health minister had also said that considering the large population size of India, one vaccine or vaccine manufacturer will not be able to fulfil the vaccine requirements of the whole country.

"Therefore, we are open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several COVID-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability for the Indian population," he had said.

Currently, two indigenously-developed vaccine candidates, one by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and the other by Zydus Cadila Ltd, are in phase 2 of human clinical trials.

Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), which has partnered with AstraZeneca for manufacturing the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate also, is also conducting phase 2 and 3 human clinical trials of the vaccine candidate in India.

During the GoM on Tuesday, Vinod K Paul of NITI Aayog apprised those present of the process of COVID-19 vaccine development in India and around the world, as per the health ministry statement.

Drawing upon recommendations of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), USA and the WHO, Paul presented a comprehensive study on the priority sections of the population that would have initial access to the vaccine

He also presented an age-group wise gender composition of COVID-19 fatalities, the percent composition of the vulnerable age-groups in the Indian population and the overlap of known COVID co-morbidities amongst these age-groups, the ministry said in the statement.

The NITI Aayog member also spoke about the eVIN network for the delivery of the vaccines.

"The eVIN network which can track the latest vaccine stock position, temperature at a storage facility, geo-tag Health Centres, and maintain facility-level dashboard is being repurposed for the delivery of COVID Vaccine."

Vardhan stresses on COVID appropriate behaviour

During the meeting, Vardhan also referred to the Jan Andolan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and appealed to people to observe COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during the forthcoming festival season and the winter months "when the likelihood of an increase in the disease is high".

He informed the meeting of the sturdy public health response mounted by India in its fight against the pandemic and the encouraging results so far, as per a health ministry statement,

Vardhan, who chaired the meeting via video-conference, said India has the highest COVID-19 recovery rate of 86.78 percent globally with 62,27,295 recovered cases and the lowest fatality rate at 1.53 percent. He further claimed that the doubling time of COVID-19 cases has been successfully raised to 74.9 days in the last three days.

"A total of 1,927 labs at present have led to an upsurge in testing. India's testing capacity has been hiked to 1.5 million tests per day. Close to 11 lakh samples were tested in the last 24 hours," the statement quoted him as saying.

Kerala's recovery rate at 66.31%, says NCDC director

Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), presented a detailed report on how the data-driven, graded government policies have helped India achieve significant control over the pandemic.

Singh informed that Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu have the highest recovery rate of 96.25 percent in India, followed by Andaman and Nicobar Islands (93.98 percent) and Bihar (93.89 percent) as against the national recovery rate of 86.36 percent.

Kerala has the lowest recovery rate of 66.31 percent because of the spike in numbers in recent days, the statement said.

Singh also noted that the reporting of influenza cases, which peak during this season, had dipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic and apprised the ministers of the advisories issued for improving the testing and surveillance activities for seasonal influenza to simultaneously detect it with COVID-19.

Reiterating the concerns over the fresh challenge in view of the upcoming winters and festive season, he stressed on the gradual transition to mitigation in affected cities over the next few weeks and a sustained campaign to instil COVID appropriate behaviour among the people.

"He apprised everyone present that the listing of healthcare workers (HCWs) would be complete by the end of October or early November while the task of identifying frontline workers, recalibration of the digital platform, logistics of non-vaccine supplies, cold chain augmentation are being carried out as per the detailed implementation plan," the statement said.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan spoke about keeping the positivity rate below 5 percent and the countrywide mortality rate below one percent through continuing the strategy of aggressive testing.

The trajectory of the disease in key states of Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh which have recently exhibited a surge in cases, needs to be observed, said Bhushan as per the health ministry statement.

Bhushan also stressed on deepening and strengthening COVID appropriate behaviour among the general population.

The total coronavirus cases in India mounted to71,75,880 on Tuesday with 55,342  new infections, while the toll climbed to 1,09,856 with the virus claimed 706 lives in 24 hours.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date:

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