The health ministry on Monday indicated that COVID-19 vaccines won't be available in the open market anytime soon because the Centre is unwilling to take chances with technical protocols and the responsibility of a national vaccine roll-out. This comes almost a month after the vaccination drive commenced. 

“It is emergency use authorisation and during this time it is the responsibility of the government to keep things under control. That is why it cannot be brought in the open market yet ... If some wrong product comes to the market, then who would be responsible for it?” Business Standard quoted Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan as saying.

The Health Minister on Monday said that 18-19 potential vaccines against novel coronavirus were in different stages of clinical trials, adding that vaccination of around 27 crore Indians above the age of 50 will begin three weeks from now.

"Some are in Phase I, some in Phase II, and a few approaching Phase III of the clinical trials. We are elated to have a huge portfolio in the near future," he said at a press conference here.

The Minister said that the Department of Biotechnology had been provided with a budget of Rs 900 crore for the development of potential vaccines against COVID-19.

"The money has been kept aside for the department for use in research and development of potential vaccine candidates against the viral disease," he added.

Vardhan also said that the Union government will begin vaccination drive for around 27 crore Indians above the age of 50 three weeks from now.

"Three weeks from now, the government will start giving doses of coronavirus vaccines to 27 crore persons above the age of 50," he said.

An expert group on vaccination will discuss how to pay for the doses for those above 50, he added.

(With IANS inputs)

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