20-25 Crore People Will Get First Covid-19 Shot by July 2021, Says Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

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Detailing the roadmap on vaccine procurement and distribution, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan spelt out the government’s priority and what to expect in the coming months vis-a-vis vaccine development and inoculating the population. Interacting with social media users during the fourth edition of ‘Sunday Samvaad’, the minister said the government plans to receive and utilise 400-500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses and that of the 1.3 billion population, 20-25 crore people would be getting the first shot by July 2021.


The government in the process of identifying the high risk groups would require the assistance of states and it is for this reason that states have to send details of priority population groups by the end of October. The list of frontline health workers will include both government as well as private sector doctors, nurses, paramedics, sanitary staff, ASHA workers, surveillance officers and many other occupational categories who are involved in tracing, testing and treatment of patients.


Harsh Vardhan has also indicated that vaccine procurement is being done centrally and each consignment will be tracked real time. The minister assured another respondent that there would be no diversion or black-marketing. “Vaccines will be distributed as per pre-decided priority and in a programmed manner. To ensure transparency and accountability, details of the entire process will be shared in the coming months.”


Dr Harsh Vardhan also said all three vaccines in India undergoing trials have proven to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in clinical trials outside India and need to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population as well although these studies can be conducted with much smaller sample size and end quickly.

It is desirable to have a single-dose vaccine, he said. However, it is often difficult to achieve desired levels of immune protection using a single dose. He added that two-dose vaccines are suitable for attaining the desired immunogenicity as the first dose gives some immune protection, and the second dose augments it further.


Regarding Phase 3 clinical trial of Russia’s ‘Sputnik-V’ vaccine in India, Harsh Vardhan clarified that the matter is still under consideration and no decision has been taken as yet.


The minister also ruled out the human challenge experiment. “India is not planning to venture into such trials until the method is proven to have an established benefit as per global experience. India has robust processes in place to ensure the vaccines that successfully complete the clinical trials are safe and effective against the novel coronavirus. When conducted, human challenge studies should be undertaken with abundant forethought, caution, and oversight. The value of the information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects,” he added.

Human challenge trials involve exposing volunteers to dangers beyond those posed by potential side effects of the substance being tested.

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