New Delhi (TIP): India is set to get a Covid-19 vaccine within weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, Dec 4, while briefing political leaders on the preparations for “cheap and safe” Made in India vaccines, assuring them that immunisation would start as soon as scientists give a go-ahead.
“There are 8 potential vaccines at different stages of trials and their production will be in India. Three indigenous vaccines are also at different levels of trials. Experts believe it will not be a long wait for a Covid vaccine. It is believed that in the next few weeks, a Covid vaccine will be ready. As soon as scientists give the green signal, immunisation will start in India,” the PM said, virtually addressing an all-party meeting.
Modi’s remarks, two days after UK’s authorisation for Pfizer’s dose, was seen by some as an indication that emergency approval may be fast-tracked for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being produced by the Serum Institute of India. The other two local vaccines are unlikely to be ready in that time frame: Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has started phase 3 trails but the results aren’t out yet; Zydus Cadila plans to start final trails in December.
On Saturday (November 28), SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said that SII could apply for emergency approval of the vaccine within two weeks. Data from final trials in the UK and Brazil have shown the vaccine to be between 62% and 90% effective, depending on the dosage. The Prime Minister assured the political leaders that Indian vaccines will be cheap but safe. He insisted on dispelling rumours for they are “never in public interest or national interest” and, for the first time, announced the priority list of beneficiaries. “A few days ago, I had very successful talks with scientists involved in Made in India vaccines. Our scientists have high level of confidence and they are hopeful about success. We are hearing names of some foreign vaccines in the market. But world is looking for the cheap but safest vaccine. And that’s why it’s natural for the world to also look at India.”
The PM also announced that in the first leg (to be spread over first six months) priority in immunisation will be given to health care workers, frontline workers and senior citizens with co-morbidities as per the suggestions of the states. But he also added that current anti-Covid protocols, especially social distancing and masks, must be continued.