New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has said that the Centre might start vaccinating people for COVID-19 from January next year, noting that its first priority is "safety and effectiveness" of vaccines.

While speaking to news agency ANI in an exclusive interview, Vardhan also said that the government is analysing the vaccines that have applied for emergency use authorisation and will take a decision accordingly.

Noting that the worst phase of COVID-19 is over in India, the Health Minister urged people to remain cautious, saying the country needs to strictly follow appropriate coronavirus behaviour.

"India is not less than any country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine and research. Our first priority has been the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We do not want any comprise on that. Our regulators are analysing them with seriousness," he told ANI.

Vardhan said that the Centre is working with the states for the past four months for preparations regarding COVID-19 vaccination in the country but noted that there are "certain issues that need to be resolved".

He, however, said that coronavirus vaccine cannot be forced upon anyone and said the government would need to educate people and give the right information to them.

"As far as the country's ability is concerned, I would like to remind that around 25 years ago, India had 60 per cent of polio-affected children in the world. We started giving vaccines to children below the age of five years on a single day. I got support from people. We first did it in Delhi, which was followed by other parts of the country. The country's model was followed by many Southeast Asian nations. We gave vaccines to children for two decades and the result was that in 2014, India came in the WHO category of polio-free nations," the minister told ANI.

"We also carry out a universal immunisation programme under which we give 12 types of vaccines to children. So there is no shortcoming in our ability. We have made full preparation. We have involved the state governments, made task force at the state level, district, and block level. We have provided training to master trainers in the country and also at the state level we have provided training. We have given training in 260 districts to more than 20,000 people," he added.

The Health Minister's statement comes days after the country's COVID-19 tally crossed the grim mark of one crore. As per Union Health Ministry, the novel infection has claimed over 1.45 lakh lives while 95.80 lakh have recovered from the deadly pathogen.

Meanwhile, there are six COVID-19 vaccine candidates in different clinical trial stages in India including Covishield, Covaxin, ZyCoV-D, Sputnik V, NVX-CoV2373 and recombinant protein antigen-based vaccine.

Besides this, three COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in the pre-clinical stage of which one of the coronavirus vaccine candidates is in the pre-development stage being researched by Aurobindo Pharma.

"Six vaccines are in the clinical trial stage. And there are three vaccines in the pre-clinical stage. Some of them may get licensed in the coming weeks but we cannot foretell at this moment of time because licensing is the domain of the national regulator the Drugs Controller General of India," Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said earlier.

"These vaccines are of two to three doses. Even after vaccination, COVID-19 precautions must be followed as advised by the scientists," he noted.

Referring to Covaxin, being manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited, Hyderabad in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), he said it is in phase 3 trials and is on an inactivated virus platform. The manufacturers have applied for emergency use authorisation.

(With ANI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma