Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said he would offer himself to take the vaccine against COVID-19 in a bid to dispel fears around the same.
He said the vaccine might be ready by the first quarter of 2021. "While no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021," Vardhan said.
Emergency authorisation of the vaccine is also on the cards, indicated the minister during an interaction with his social media followers, 'Jan Samvad', on Sunday. He said the government is considering emergency authorisation of a vaccine against the coronavirus, 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.
To allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, he said he will be happy to take the first dosage of vaccine if some people have a trust deficit. Incidentally, a decade ago, the then Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had officially launched Vaxiflu-S, the country's first indigenous vaccine to counter H1N1 /swine flu.
A recent study published in the British Journal, The Lancet, said there is increasing vaccine hesitancy in many parts of the world at a time when a vaccine to fight COVID-19 is eagerly awaited.
In India, the hesitancy is at the lowest among other countries in comparison like Pakistan, Indonesia and South Korea. The study explored the acceptance levels of vaccines and how they have changed in 149 countries between 2015 and 2019.
On Sunday, while, elaborating on the vaccine candidates and their development in India, Vardhan said the Department of Bio Technology (DBT) as well as the 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 the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and trials at different phases are underway with respect to several vaccines in Indian laboratories (private or public) and hospitals. He also emphasised on why herd immunity or natural immunity is not something that will be achieved soon or safely, adding that a vaccine is a better way to establish immunity.
On the vaccine front, Serum Institute is developing a vaccine candidate in India in partnership with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company. The trials have been halted after the Drugs Controller General of India sought data on the safety profile of the vaccine because of an unexplained illness in a volunteer in the UK. AstraZeneca on Saturday declared resumption of trials of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has entered the second phase of the trials and has also presented data about the vaccine showing efficacy in animal trials. Zydus Cadila's ZyCoV-D too is in the second phase of trials.