The coronavirus vaccine might be ready by the first quarter of 2021, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday.
"While no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021," he said.
Harsh Vardhan also said that the government is considering emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccination to senior citizens and people working in high-risk settings. "This shall be done after a consensus has been reached," he added.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunise the majority of the population, he said during the 'Sunday Samvad' programme where he interacted with his social media followers and answered their questions.
The Health Minister also assured that the government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine.
"Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines, etc, are also being discussed intensely," he said. He assured the vaccine would be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.
Harsh Vardhan also said he would be happy to take the first dosage of the vaccine if some people have a trust deficit.
His statement came in the wake of an incident in the UK where one of the participants in the ongoing trial of the University of Oxford's vaccine candidate developed a severe complication right after being administered its dose.
The Minister also informed about vaccine candidates and their development in India.
"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 the advancement of vaccine candidates. India is actively partnering with the 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," he said.
The minister also noted that a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity to Covid-19 at much faster pace as compared to natural infection. It is hoped that a consensus will emerge in the next few months over the desired level of protective herd immunity in any community, he said.