Covid-19 vaccine by first quarter of next year; Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardan

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(Online Desk)

The Covid-19 vaccine will be in all probability be ready before first quarter of next year, said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. He said though no date was for launch, yet expressed confidence it would be ready at the earliest, while addressing the first episode of his Sunday Samvaad, a social media interaction program.

In fact, his comments come a day after pharma giant Astrazeneca announced the resumption of its Covid-19 vaccine trial after it got a go-ahead from British regulators. Its India partner Serum Institute of India has paused the trials after it was issued a show-cause notice by the Drug Controller of India, following the red flags raised in the UK.

Once the vaccine is ready, it will be made available to those who need it the most. But the minister said he will be happy to receive the first dose of the vaccine.

In his one-hour interaction, the minister discussed several issues related to Covid-19 as he replied to several questions posed by social media users.

He said several vaccine trials are going on in India. And, at present, none can predict which one of them will emerge as the most effective. However, he said he is confident of one of them will be certainly be available by the first quarter of 2021, depending on the results

Elaborating on availability, he said a vaccine expert group has already been set up and it is overseeing the entire process. While the trial results get assessed, the manufacturers will be advised to begin mass-production so that no time is wasted, the minister added.

When asked who’ll have the first dose he said; “Work has already started on prioritising vulnerable groups who will be administered the vaccine first. But if I need to take the vaccine to test the efficacy of it, I will happily take the first dose.”

Regarding possible vaccine price, he said it is premature to comment as it is still under trial. But, he assured that the Centre will ensure that the vaccine will be made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.

Speaking on emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccine, he pointed out that the government indeed thinking about this. He said, if there is consensus, then government may grant emergency authorisation of the vaccine for senior citizens, frontline workers.

Normally, he said the third trial takes about six to nine months. Yet, if the government decides, this period can be cut short by giving an emergency authorisation. “Any emergency authorisation is always done by adopting reinforced safeguard so that people don’t worry about the safety. Prime Minister Modi himself is monitoring the expert committee. There will be no shortcut on safety. Emergency authorisation will be given only if it meets the standards.”

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