Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that the first shot of a coronavirus vaccine could be administered in "any week of January". He said that the safety and effectiveness of vaccines would be the first priority and that there won't be any compromise on that parameter.
After consultation with experts, Vardhan said, the goverment has prioritized 30 crore people for COVID vaccine. It includes health workers, frontline workers like police, military and sanitation staff, people above 50 years and those who are below 50 years but are suffering from certain diseases.
"Our first priority has been the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. We don't want to compromise on that. I personally feel, maybe in any week of January, we can be in a position to give the first COVID vaccine shot to people of India," Harsh Vardhan was quoted by news agency ANI.
He said that the effort is that everyone in "our priority list takes COVID vaccine". "We will address the issue of vaccine hesitancy. But if anyone decides not to take it, we can't force them," the Union minister said.
Vardhan underlined that it was scientifically possible to eradicate polio and "ultimately, coronavirus will also subside and we will come across its sporadic occurrences".
The Central government along with state governments, he said, has been making preparations at state, district and block levels for the past four months. "We have formed task forces at state, district and block levels. Thousands of master trainers have been trained across the country. We've conducted training at state level and trained over 20,0 00 workers in about 260 districts," the minister said.
Six vaccines- one developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR, second one developed by Zydus Cadila, third one by Gennova, Oxford vaccine, the trial of which is conducted by Serum Institute of India, Sputnik V vaccine which is being manufactured by Dr Reddy's Lab, Hyderabad, in collaboration with Russia's Gamaleya National Centre and the sixth one manufactured by Biological E Ltd, Hyderabad, in collaboration with MIT, USA are undergoing clinical trials in India.
Recently, the Union Health Ministry said that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 will be voluntary, and underlined that the vaccine introduced in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed by other countries. The ministry stated that it was advisable to receive a complete schedule of the anti-coronavirus vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19 as this will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease. It said that protective level of antibodies generally develop two weeks after receiving the second dose.