World counting on us for affordable coronavirus vaccine, says PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the vaccine cost issue will be discussed with state governments
A vaccine to prevent Covid-19 could be available in India in a few weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday, citing experts.


Trials are on for eight different vaccines, of which three are of Indian origin. “As safety in the use of these vaccines, along with their cost, is paramount, India will rely on the judgement of medical experts. But a roll-out could happen in weeks,” Modi told leaders during an all-party meeting. Thirteen leaders from prominent political parties, having five or more than five MPs, spoke at the meeting.


The PM said the cost of the vaccine was an issue that would be discussed with state governments. In its Bihar election manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had said the vaccine would be distributed free of cost in the state. State governments had suggested that the medical community and other frontline workers handling Covid-19 patients and older people with co-morbidities should be vaccinated first.


“As soon as we get the green signal from the scientists, the vaccination programme will begin countrywide” he said. A presentation made by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the vaccine would be first given to about 10 million health workers — doctors, nurses and others — from both the public and private sectors. Thereafter, it will be administered to about 20 million front-line workers such as police and armed forces personnel, and municipal workers. Describing India as a country that had unparalleled experience and success in vaccination programmes, the PM said discussions were on with state governments on cold chains and other logistics.


India has developed Co-Win software, which will provide real-time information on beneficiaries, available stocks of the vaccine and its storage. For research on the vaccine, a special task force has been set up. And a national expert group has been constituted comprising bureaucrats both from the central and state governments, scientists, representatives of various state zones and others from different ministries to coordinate the roll-out of the vaccination programme.


The national expert group is working in consultation with state governments, and all decisions on the vaccine, local or national, will be taken collectively by the group, he said.


The PM said the morale of scientists working towards a vaccine was high, and their confidence levels undimmed. He said the names of many vaccines were doing the rounds in various countries, but the world’s eyes were on India for the development of one that was both safe and low cost.

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