Covid-19 vaccine likely by early 2021, says Harsh Vardhan, offers to take 1st shot to build trust

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that no date has been fixed yet for the launch of a Covid-19 vaccine in India. He suggested that the same may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.

“Government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said. He also told Indians during his social media interaction ‘Jan Samwad’ that he would be the first person to be vaccinated if people have a trust deficit with the Covid-19 vaccine.

A study published recently in prominent British Journal, the Lancet had pointed out hesitancy towards a vaccine in many parts of the world. Similar concerns have been raised by international bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has partnered with Bharat Biotech International to develop ‘Covaxin’, an indigenously-developed Covid-19 vaccine. Results of Phase I of the clinical trials of Covaxin show protective efficacy and immunogenicity in non-human primates.

The Union minister’s statement comes a day after the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) released a statement saying it is waiting for the Drugs Controller General of India’s nod to resume clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate. This vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca.

Earlier this month, the DGCI had paused SII’s clinical trials after one of the participants of the clinical trials developed a spinal inflammatory disorder. The University of Oxford resumed clinical trials for its Covid-19 vaccine in the UK on September 12.

Following the resumption of the trials in the UK, SII Chairman Adar Poonawalla had said in a tweet, “As I’d mentioned earlier, we should not jump to conclusions until the trials are fully concluded. The recent chain of events are a clear example why we should not bias the process and should respect the process till the end.”

As of yet, Russia’s Sputnik-V is the only approved Covid-19 vaccine in the world. Developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, it was approved by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation on August 11. However, it is yet to enter Phase 3 clinical trials.

According to some estimates, nearly 45 Covid-19 vaccine candidates are currently in Phase 1-3 of clinical trials across the globe. These include University of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s AZD1222, Sinovac’s CoronaVac, Moderna’s mRNA-1273, Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, Pfizer’s BNT162, and ICMR-Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin among others.

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