Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said vaccination of Covid-19 may begin in January 2021 and the government is taking all precautions to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, without naming which vaccine will be given first.

"I personally feel may be in January in any stage or any week, there can be a time when we can be in a position to give first Covid vaccine shot to people of India" Harsh Vardhan told ANI, when asked about India's vaccination drive against the coronavirus.

"Our scientists and health experts have worked on the development of a vaccine by genome sequencing and isolation of the coronavirus and developed an indigenous vaccine. In 6-7 months, we will have the capacity to inoculate about 30 crore people," he said, while addressing a meeting of the ministers on COVID-19.

Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr. Harsh VardhanTwitter.com

Vaccine candidates

Currently, there are six vaccines under assessment for emergency use authorization by the regulator for the drive -- Covishield, Covaxin, ZyCoV-D, Sputnik V, NVX-CoV2373 and a recombinant protein antigen-based vaccine.

Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has claimed that amongst all the vaccine platforms such as an mRNA-based vaccine, DNA-based vaccine, vector-based vaccine, or live attenuated vaccines, the inactivated vaccines being developed by it for Covid 19 are safest, and hence, the adverse reactions are lesser. Its Coavaxin has been tested widely among volunteers in Hyderabad.

The Covishield developed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India in partnership with AstraZeneca, Sputnik V being developed by Dr Reddy's Lab and Russia's Gamaleya National Centre, a nasal vaccine by Bharat BioTech are among the six under consideration for approval for emergency use. 

Sufficient stockpile

So far, India has recorded more than 10 million Covid-19 cases and over 145,000 deaths and hopes the vaccination roll-out would cover the health workers and frontline warriors effectively in the first phase of vaccination in January. The health ministry is planning to cover at least 300 million people by early August.

The next target group for vaccinations would include people above the age of 50 years with underlying risk factors and co-morbidities, according to the health ministry officials. About 29,000 existing cold storage facilities will be put into service to stock the vaccines with requirement of transportation and distribution between 2C and 8C temperatures. Even Indigo airlines has been roped in for air transportation recently.

The health ministry officials said that there will be sufficient stock of vaccines for the drive in January. The Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech have a capacity of producing 65 million doses a month.