About 18-19 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in different clinical trial stages and may be available in the coming months, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday. Addressing the media, Vardhan said that in the next 2-3 weeks, vaccination against COVID-19 will be started for people above 50 years of age.
"About 18-19 vaccine candidates against COVID-19 are in the pipeline and are in preclinical, clinical and advanced stages. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer newer vaccines to India in the coming months," Vardhan said. Vardhan said that 80-85 percent of frontline workers have been vaccinated in the country.
With India supplying the COVID-19 vaccine to several countries, the minister said about 20-25 nations will avail the vaccine, he added. Dispelling rumours surrounding the jabs, Vardhan said the vaccines are safe and effective.
He said no new COVID-19 case has been reported in 188 districts of the country in the last seven days and in 21 districts in 21 days. Vardhan urged the people to keep following COVID-appropriate behaviour.
"It is crucial that people continue to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour which I call social vaccine, along with real vaccines," he said. India has approved two vaccines -- Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India -- for emergency use in the country.
Vardhan said that though the government intends to bear the cost of vaccination for the second phase as well when people over the age of 50 years will be vaccinated, no decision has been taken in this regard. The health ministry also said that a new flagship programme of the PM, Atmanirbhar Swastha Bharat Yojana, has been announced in the Budget.
"Budget has referred to a holistic approach toward health and health care. Allocation to the health sector for 2020-21 is 1.8 percent of GDP," a senior ministry official said. Vardhan said COVID-19 has strengthened the country's health sector potential.
"We turned a crisis into opportunity. From one lab, India has grown to 2,500 diagnostic labs, and genome sequencing, which is being talked about now, has been in Indian labs since May-June last year,'' he noted. Through this Budget, we have brought in the dream of 'Health for All'. Our holistic approach, ancient medical wisdom, other health facilities and systems collectively will be a model for the world,'' he added.