Union Minister Harsh Vardhan today said that while there has been no date fixed on the availability of a potential Covid-19 vaccine, chances are it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.

He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.

Vardhan further stated that the government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine and the officials are is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunize majority of the population.

“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely," he stated.

On the availability of the vaccine and its authorization, Vardhan informed that Centre is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination especially in the case of senior citizens and people working in high-risk settings. “This shall be done after a consensus has been reached", he said, according to an official statement.

To allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, he said, "I shall be the first to offer myself for receiving COVID vaccine, if people have a trust deficit."

He also noted that a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity to COVID-19 at much faster pace as compared to the natural infection. It is hoped that a consensus will emerge in next few months over the desired level of protective herd immunity in any community, he stated.

Elaborating on the vaccine candidates and their development in India, Vardhan added that Department of Bio Technology (DBT) as well as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have been pro-active in responding to the emerging situation to support advancement of vaccine candidates. India is actively partnering with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and trials at different phases are ongoing with respect to several vaccines in Indian laboratories (private or public) and hospitals.

The health minister was interacting and answering questions posed by his social media followers on the 'Sunday Samvad' platform.

Currently, India has three vaccine candidates, including country's first indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin, which are in different phases of the clinical study, top ICMR scientist (Prof) Balram Bhargava informed earlier. "So at the present moment, we have three Indian vaccine candidates which are in different phases of a clinical study. Studies for Phase 1 and 2 are to determine the safety and very early efficacy."

The Covid-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin, developed by ICMR and Bharat Biotech, is currently in Phase I/II human trials and is being tested at 12 institutes across India.

For the vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, pharma major Serum Institute of India (SII) said it will resume the trials in India once Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) gives it requisite permission.

AstraZeneca PLC had on September 6 paused the trial of coronavirus vaccine (recombinant) as a volunteer developed an unexplained illness. It was also reported that the clinical trials had been put on hold in other countries including USA, UK, Brazil and South Africa.

The third is a DNA vaccine of pharma giant called Zydus Cadila. It has completed the phase 1 study in India and has begun phase 2 study at 11 sites and progressing well.

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