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COVID-19 vaccine may become reality by the first quarter of 2021, PM warns people to stay cautious as cases in India surge

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the government of India is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination for the elderly and people working in a high-risk environment such as health workers. He said that it could be done after a consensus has been reached.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, interacted with his social media followers on the Sunday Samvad platform on 13th September. While the questions covered a wide array of concerns regarding the current situation of COVID, the government’s approach about it, and possible changes one can expect in the coming time, one question that was the highlight of Samvad was about the timeline of the vaccine for Covid-19 infection.

In his reply, the minister said that there is no fixed date for the launch of the Covid-19 vaccine; however, the ministry is hopeful that it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021. Dr. Vardhan said that the government is taking every required step and precaution while conducting the vaccine’s human trials.

He said that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 under the Chairmanship of Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, is developing the strategy required to immunize the majority of the population. He added, “Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines, etc., are also discussed intensely.”

Emergency authorization of vaccine for high-risk population

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the government of India is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination for the elderly and people working in a high-risk environment such as health workers. He said that it could be done after a consensus has been reached. When some questions were raised over the safety aspect of the vaccine, Dr Vardhan said that he would be happy to take the first dosage of the vaccine to build trust among people for the vaccine.

Department of Bio Technology (DBT), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and international organizations like Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are working pro-actively to develop and run trials for the vaccine. Several vaccines are under trials in both public and private laboratories and hospitals in India. Dr. Vardhan said that a safe and effective vaccine would help in establishing immunity to Covid-19 at a much faster pace compared to natural immunization.

Jab tak dawai nahi, dhilai nahi – PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi again emphasized on taking Covid-19 related precautions seriously. In his address to the nation during the ‘Grih Pravesham’ function of beneficiaries under PMAY-G in Madhya Pradesh on 11th September, he said that he believes people of India will listen to his request and take precautions the health ministry has suggested to keep COVID-19 at bay.

He said, “लेकिन याद रखिए, और ये बात मैं बार-बार कहता हूं, जरूर याद रखिए, मुझे विश्‍वास है आप याद रखेंगे। इतना ही नहीं मेरी बात मानेंगे भी, देखिए जब तक दवाई नहीं, तब तक ढिलाई नहीं याद रहेगा। दो गज़ की दूरी, मास्क है ज़रूरी, इस मंत्र को भूलना नहीं है। (But remember, and I reiterate this many times, and I am sure you will remember. Not only that, but you will also listen to me.  As long as there is no medicine, there should be no laxity. The distance of two yards, mask is necessary, do not forget this mantra.)

Current situation of COVID-19 in India

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India has clocked 49,27,236 Chinese coronavirus cases so far out of which 9,90,061 are active. 38,59,399 patients have recovered while 80,776 have lost their lives. The current recovery rate stands at 78% in India.

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