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India Hopes to Receive 50 Crore COVID-19 Vaccine Doses by July 2021: Harsh Vardhan

India Hopes to Receive 50 Crore COVID-19 Vaccine Doses by July 2021: Harsh Vardhan

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan. Photo: Facebook/Dr Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi: The Centre estimates to receive and utilise 40-50 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 20-25 crore people by July next year and is preparing a format for state governments to submit by the end of this month a list of priority populations, health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday.

He said priority would be given to health workers engaged in COVID-19 management, asserting that the Centre would ensure ‘fair and equitable distribution’ of vaccines, once they are ready.

During an interaction with his social media followers on the ‘Sunday Samvad’ platform, Vardhan said vaccine procurement would be done centrally with each consignment tracked real-time until delivery to ensure it reaches those who need it the most and there is no black-marketing.

A high-level expert group is looking into all aspects of vaccines and the health ministry is currently preparing a format in which states will submit lists of priority population groups to receive a vaccine, the Union minister said.

The list of frontline health workers will include both government as well as private-sector doctors, nurses, paramedics, sanitary staff, ASHA workers, surveillance officers and many other occupational categories who are involved in tracing, testing and treatment of patients.

This exercise is targeted to be completed by the end of October and state governments will be guided to also submit details about cold chain facilities and other related infrastructure which will be required down to the block level, Vardhan said.

“The Centre is also working on plans for building capacities in human resources, training, supervision and others on a massive scale and roughly estimates to receive and utilise 400-500 million doses covering approximately 20-25 crore people by July 2021. All this is under various stages of finalisation,” he said.

The minister had earlier said a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by the first quarter of 2021.

“Our government is working round the clock to ensure that there is a fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, once they are ready. Our utmost priority is how to ensure a vaccine for each and everybody in the country,” Vardhan said.

Also Read: How and When Will We Know That a COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective?

He added that a high-level committee under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul is drawing up the entire process.

The minister said the panel is working on understanding the timelines of availability of various vaccines in the country, obtaining commitments from vaccine manufacturers to make the maximum number of doses available for India, inventory and supply chain management and also on prioritisation of high-risk groups.

“This is a work in progress which will be completed by the time the vaccines are ready to ensure the swift roll-out of an immunisation programme.”

A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of displayed “Coronavirus COVID-19” words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

‘No black marketing’

Assuring a social media follower that there would be no diversion or black-marketing of the vaccine, Vardhan said, “Vaccines will be distributed as per pre-decided priority and in a programmed manner. To ensure transparency and accountability, details of the entire process will be shared in the coming months.”

To a question regarding the phase-three clinical trial of Russia’s ‘Sputnik-V’ vaccine in India, Vardhan clarified that the matter was still under consideration, and no decision has been taken yet.

To another question, he replied it is not possible to comment on the superiority of one vaccine over another, but it would be ensured that “even if we have multiple vaccines, they will all be safe and will elicit the requisite immune response against coronavirus.”

He said all vaccines that are proven to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in clinical trials outside India need to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population as well, although those can be conducted with much smaller sample size and can end quickly.

Also Read: How and When Will We Know That a COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective?

Informing his audience that adverse events after vaccination are common, he said such events include local reactions such as pain at the injection site, mild fever and redness and anxiety such as palpitations, syncope or fainting.

These reactions are transient, self-limiting and do not affect the protective response of the vaccine, the minister said.

Detailing the ethical concerns of Human Challenge Experiments, Vardhan said, “India is not planning to venture into such trials until the method is proven to have an established benefit as per global experience.”

Sharing his views on single-dose versus double-dose vaccines, he accepted that for quick control of a pandemic, it is desirable to have a single-dose vaccine, the statement said.

“However, it is often difficult to achieve desired levels of immune protection using a single dose. Two-dose vaccines are suitable for attaining the desired immunogenicity as the first one gives some immune protection, and the second one augments it further.”

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