New Delhi, Aug 23: Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said “test, track, treat” was the government’s strategy to move forward, and listed the progress stage of various vaccine candidates, adding that some of them could be available in the first quarter of 2021.
In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Vardhan talked about the current COVID-19 situation in the country, and provided details on the government’s vaccine procurement plans.
On Thursday, India’s Covid-19 caseload went past 28 lakh with a record single-day spike of 69,652 infections, according to the Union Health Ministry data. Asked about when infections are projected to peak across India, following a fall in fresh cases, the Health Minister said that it was difficult to predict that.
India being a large country, he said the outbreak was heterogeneous in different states with respect to their vulnerability, the maturity of outbreak, and the number of confirmed cases.
He said the outbreak was likely to peak at different points in cities and states, and the variety in implementation measures, including the proportion of people taking preventive measures, played a role in this. He said these factors made it difficult to say when a drop in new cases would take place.
Various experts across the duration of the outbreak, have said that a vaccine is direly needed for the world to go back to some normality in its operations. Asked about when a vaccine would be ready for use in India, Vardhan said that vaccine trials against Covid-19 were being fast-tracked globally.
He said the efficacy of India-made vaccines would be known by the year-end, upon completion of trials. Adding that the Oxford vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India was already being produced on a parallel end, he said this would reduce the time needed to market it.
The Health Minister said that the other two vaccines would require at least a month extra for production, and phased introduction in the market. He pointed out that if the vaccine trial results were successful, it could be “ready to use” by the first quarter of 2021.
Developed by Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech, the human trials of ‘COVAXIN’ had started two weeks back and could be available by the end of 2020, Vardhan said.
He said the Serum Institute of India had informed that it was ready to begin human trials in India this month and was hoping to have the AstraZeneca vaccine available by the year-end. The ZyCoV-D from Zydus Cadila could complete its clinical trials in a few months too, he added.
Last week, the European Union agreed to buy at least 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in its first such advance purchase deal. As other countries move towards similar advance procurement deals, Harsh Vardhan was asked to comment on India’s plans for the same.