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Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that the Centre is working on plans to procure 400-500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, which will be administered to up to 25 crore people by July 2021.

"Government plans to receive and utilise 400-500 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. Our target is to cover 20-25 crore people by July 2021. For that, we are building capacities in HR, training, supervision, etc, on a massive scale," he said at his weekly webinar 'Sunday Samvaad' for his social media followers.

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The Minister said that a high-level committee under Niti Aayog Member, Health, V.K. Paul is drawing up the entire process. "Vaccine procurement is being done centrally and each consignment will be tracked real time until delivery to ensure it reaches those who need it most," he said.

Harsh Vardhan said that these committees are working on understanding the timelines of availability of various vaccines in the country, obtaining commitments from their manufacturers to make available maximum number of doses for India's inventory, on supply chain management and also on prioritisation of high-risk groups.

"This is work in progress which will be completed by the time the vaccines are ready to ensure the swift roll-out of the immunisation programme," he said.

He also indicated that the frontline workers and those having underlying health conditions are in the top priority list of the government for vaccine administration, saying that his ministry is currently preparing a format in which states will submit lists of priority population groups to receive the vaccine, especially health workers engaged in the management of Covid-19.

"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," he added.

"The vaccine 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," he said.

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Harsh Vardhan also informed that the states are being closely guided to also submit details about cold chain facilities and other related infrastructure which will be required down to the block level distribution of the vaccine.

"This exercise is targeted to be completed by the end of this October," he said.

COVID-19 Vaccines Developed Abroad To Undergo Safety Check Before Use: Health Minister

The Union Health Minister further said that Covid-19 vaccines developed outside India will have to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population.

"We are open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several Covid-19 vaccines in the country... However, all vaccines that have proven to be safe, immunogenic and efficacious in clinical trials outside India need to undergo bridging studies to prove their safety and immunogenicity in the Indian population as well," he said.

"Such studies are conducted with much smaller sample size and quickly. A similar approach will be adopted for Covid-19 vaccines which are developed outside the country," he said during his weekly webinar "Sunday Samvaad".

Harsh Vardhan's comment comes as several candidate drugs enter the final phase of testing and trials. Three potential vaccines are being tested in India, including Covishield, which was developed jointly by the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford and pharma giant AstraZeneca.

Covishield is in Phase-2 and Phase-3 human trials and, if successful, will be mass produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the world's largest manufacturers of vaccines. Its trials in India are running at 17 locations across the country.

A UK media report earlier this month said Covishield, which is also being tested there, could be cleared by health regulators in that country by end-2020 and be rolled out within six months.

Besides, two other vaccine candidates are also being tested across the country.

Indigenous vaccine developer Bharat Biotech, in collaboration with the the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, is conducting Phase-1 and Phase-2 clinical trials of vaccine candidate COVAXIN.

The third vaccine candidate under human trial is ZyCoV-D, developed by Zydus Cadila. This candidate is now under Phase-1 and Phase-2 of clinical trials.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released the 'Draft landscape of Covid-19 candidate vaccines', on September 30, in which it informed that as many as 191 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development across the globe. Among these, 41 have made their way into clinical trials while 10 have entered the third phase of clinical trials.

(IANS)

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