Stating that a clear picture on COVID-19 vaccine will emerge in a next few months, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that by June-July, almost 30 crore people will get a scientifically approved, safe and efficacious vaccine, adding that experts are currently busy chalking out plans on how to roll out the distribution of the vaccine in the country.
“The capacity and capability of India in production of vaccines is well-known. We provide 60 per cent of the vaccines needed by developing countries, and about one-fourth the world’s requirement. Roughly, more than 100 candidates for Covid vaccine are under various stages of development round the world, and 30 of them in India. Of these 30, five are in various stages of clinical trial, two in an advanced stage, two in the preclinical trial stage… As per the internal reports available with us, the talks that are on, I am fully hopeful of a vaccine being available in the beginning of 2021, a safe vaccine with good efficacy,” he was quoted as saying in a report by The Indian Express.
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The Health Minister said the healthcare workers and frontline workers in government, as well as private sectors such as police personnel, municipal employees and those above the age of 65, would be provided with the COVID-19 vaccine in the first phase.
“Regarding its availability to the public, there is no denying that we cannot inoculate 135 crore people all at once. However, as per our planning, by June-July, almost 30 crore people will get the vaccine, among whom we will prioritise first, health workers, in the government and private sector, then frontline workers in the field whether it is the police, paramilitary or Army, corporation employees or sanitation workers, followed by those above the age of 65, then those between 50 and 65, and then those younger who have comorbidities such as diabetes, heart conditions,” he said.
The Health Minister further pointed out that India’s overall performance in controlling and treating the virus was exceedingly well and that they will be taking more steps in future to trickle best healthcare services. He said that the government has converted Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network into a COVIN platform, which will help people get all the information regarding the availability of the vaccine.
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“The states are on board, and we have converted our eVIN or Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network into a COVIN platform. This platform will have the list of all the potential beneficiaries, the schedule of when they will get the vaccine, and where they would have to go, information regarding which would be sent on SMS. The platform will also hold information regarding who gave the vaccine, where, and when. People who are vaccinated will get certificates on the same platform, and will also be sent reminders for the second dose,” he told the daily.
Giving an account on how the Central government will handle the vaccine when available, the Union Minister said, “We will track where the vaccine is stored, at what temperature, and provide training to our vaccinators, as well as organisations such as NGOs which would be roped in. We have already started talks with NGOs… So I assure people that very soon, in the next few months, we will have a safe, effective vaccine, developed and researched in the country.”
When asked about his advice to people till a vaccine is available, Vardhan said that the best vaccine, the most powerful and potent vaccine, available to us is ‘social vaccine’.
“I said this right at the beginning, perhaps during the lockdown, when there was no inkling of a vaccine in the near future, that the best vaccine, the most powerful and potent vaccine, available to us is ‘social vaccine’. I described ‘social vaccine’ as using a mask fully covering the nose and mouth, not removing it while talking, eating in private so as to not remove it in front of other people, maintaining a distance of two yards, washing hands with soap, and coughing, sneezing into our elbows. We told everyone not to wait for the actual vaccine but have faith in this ‘social vaccine’.