Covid-19 vaccine possible by 2021 first quarter, says Harsh Vardhan
Will be happy to take the first dose of the vaccine, the health minister said as he was interacting through Sunday Samvaad, his new social media interaction programme.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said no date for launching the Covid-19 vaccine has been fixed yet. “It may be ready by the first quarter of next year,” the minister said as he addressed the first episode of his Sunday Samvaad — a social media interaction programme.
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.
The minister assured the government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine. “Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines, etc., are also being discussed intensely,” he said.
The vaccine, once ready, 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.
On which trial is most promising: “Several vaccine trials are going on in India. At present, we can’t predict which one will emerge as the most effective. But by the first quarter of 2021, we will definitely know the results,” the minister said.
On availability: A vaccine expert group has been set up, which 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 said.
On first dose: “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,” the minister said.
On Covid-19 vaccine price: “It is premature to comment on the price of the vaccine which is still under trial. But the government of India will assure that the vaccine will be made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity,” Harsh Vardhan said.
On emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccine: “The government is thinking about this. If there is consensus, we may grant emergency authorisation of the vaccine for senior citizens, frontline workers. Normally, the third trial takes about six to nine months. But 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. A high-level group has been formed to monitor the pace of the vaccine development under the direct guidance of PM Modi. There will be no shortcut on safety. Emergency authorisation will be given only if it meets the standards.”
On what could have been done better: “We have put in our heart and soul. We have done our best. Now as I look back and think of the events that unfolded after I held the fist meeting on Covid-19 on January 8, it is difficult for me to think what could have been done better,” Vardhan said.