Government plans to fast-track Covid vaccine

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NEW DELHI: The government is considering emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccine so that it can be made available at the earliest for those in high risk groups, including senior citizens and healthcare workers, health minister Harsh Vardhan said. “This shall be done after a consensus is reached,” Vardhan said during a social media interaction called ‘Sunday Samvaad’.
Officials said while the final phase of trial for a vaccine takes six to nine months, an emergency authorisation may be considered once a certain level of efficacy is established along with its safety.
The much awaited vaccine, there are several in the works, is expected to be ready by the first quarter of 2021, Vardhan said even as he maintained “no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch” as yet.
To allay concerns about safety of a vaccine, Vardhan said he would be happy to take the first dose if some people had a trust deficit. He also added that it would be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.
Vardhan’s remarks came a day after pharma giant AstraZeneca announced resumption of its Covid vaccine trial after it got a go-ahead from British regulators. Its India partner — Pune-based Serum Institute of India — has also paused the trials after it was issued a show-cause notice by the Drugs Controller General of India. The company is waiting for required approvals from DCGI to resume trials.
India has three vaccines in advanced stages of trial. The vaccine candidate developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and proposed in India by Serum Institute is ahead and is set to enter phase 3. The other two locally developed candidates by Bharat Biotech and Cadila are in phase 2 trials. Besides, the government is also talking with Russia to pursue Sputnik V.
Vardhan said the government was taking full precautions in conducting trials of the vaccine and officials were drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunise a majority of the population.
“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines are being discussed intensely,” he said. He added that a safe and effective vaccine would help in establishing immunity to Covid at a much faster pace as compared to the natural infection.

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