Harsh Vardhan also highlighted how the pandemic became a turning point for Indian manufacturing.

New Delhi: Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on Sunday (September 13, 2020) claimed that India shall have a vaccine ready by March 2021. He even offered to take the first shot himself for receiving COVID-19 vaccine if people have any ‘trust deficit’.

“To allay fears regarding the safety aspect of the vaccines, Harsh Vardhan said he will be happy to take the first dosage of vaccine if some people have a trust deficit,” read the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s statement.

Vardhan while interacting with his social media followers using his Sunday ‘Samvad’ platform also informed that while no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021.

He 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 VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunize majority of the population.

“Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines etc, are also been discussed intensely”, he added.

He assured the vaccine will be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.

Further, he said that the Government is considering emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccination especially in the case of senior citizens & people working in high-risk settings. “This shall be done after a consensus has been reached”, he said.

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 the advancement of vaccine candidates.

Notably, 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.

The Minister also opined that a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity to COVID-19 at a 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 said.

Harsh Vardhan also 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”, Vardhan said.

In order to make the healthcare cost reasonable and affordable for the common man, Harsh Vardhan expressed that the Government has directed all States and UTs to fix a reasonable price for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals.

“Free coverage up to Rs 5 lakhs for COVID patients for those who are eligible under the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY package was announced.”

He added that the Central Government has also asked States/UTs to proactively engage with the private sector health providers and consider pooling in public and private healthcare facilities, as this will help in providing prompt, good quality and reasonable health care to Covid-19 patients.

He has himself appealed to the private hospitals to refrain from overcharging COVID patients, he said.

The Minister highlighted that several measures have been taken to ensure accessibility and affordability of all drugs and other therapeutics to all citizens, irrespective of their paying capacities.

“The Government has taken cognizance 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.”

The Union Health Minister said that the Centre 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. ICMR is establishing a National Clinical Registry on COVID that will provide insights into the clinical course of COVID-19 disease, its spectrum and outcome of patients. Expert group consultations are already going on to review the emerging evidence and generate our own data on organ system-specific (respiratory system, renal system, cardiovascular and gastro-intestinal) sequelae of COVID.”

He also said, “NDHM is one of the most ambitious missions of the Government of India and is set to catapult India as a global leader in the field of digital health. However, there are vested interests that do not want India to succeed and are spearheading a disinformation campaign against NDHM.”

Allaying fears, he clarified that it is an utter lie that those who do not become part of this system shall not be allowed to access the hospitals.

“Those persons or institutions who are not a part of this system shall continue to enjoy access to the healthcare system in exactly the same manner as they are doing now. Participation in the digital health ecosystem shall be totally optional and shall never be made mandatory for individuals,” said Harsh Vardhan.