Speed Post News Network

New Delhi : Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan on September 13, 2020, interacted and answered questions posed by his social media followers on Sunday Samvad platform. These questions covered a multitude of queries concerning not only the current situation of COVID but also the government’s approach to it, the likely changes one expects to see in the post COVID world and the steps taken by government in its facilitation.

The Minister informed that while no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021. Dr Vardhan stated that the Government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine and the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 under the Chairmanship of Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunise majority of the population. “Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc., are also been discussed intensely,” he stated. He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity, according to a PIB release.

Further, he said that the Government is considering emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccination 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.

Elaborating on the vaccine candidates and their development in India, he said that Department of Bio Technology (DBT) as well as 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 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.

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 the natural infection. It is hoped that a consensus will emerge in next few months over the desired level of protective herd immunity in any community, he stated.

Dr Vardhan highlighted how the pandemic became a turning point for Indian manufacturing. From the time when there were “no indigenous manufacturers of PPEs with requisite standards, now there are nearly 110 indigenous manufacturers of PPE with requisite standards. The country is in a position to not only meet its own demands but also export to help out fellow nations,” he added.

In order to make the healthcare cost reasonable and affordable for the common man, Dr Vardhan said that the Government has directed all States and UTs to fix a reasonable price for COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals. Free coverage up to Rs 5 lakh for COVID patients for those who are eligible under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY package was announced.

The Minister said the Government has taken cognisance of reports of alleged black marketing of drugs like Remdesivir and has asked Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to take suitable action against the same along with their State Counterparts. He stated that the Government is seized of the evolving nature of the infection and emerging evidence of the systemic health complications in those who have been infected. AIIMS and other research institutions have been asked to undertake research to study the long-term impact of COVID.