India likely to start Covid-19 vaccination in January

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan calls urgent meeting

NEW DELHI: Dec.20 The Union Health Ministry has called an urgent meeting of its Joint Monitoring Group on Monday to discuss the emergence of a mutated variant of the coronavirus in the UK, which has led to a surge in the infection rate there. A number of European countries have banned flights from the UK as the British government warned that the potent new strain of the virus was “out of control” and imposed a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown from Sunday.

“The Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) chaired by the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) will hold a meeting on Monday morning to discuss the issue of the mutated variant of the coronavirus reported from the UK. “WHO’s India representative Dr Roderico H Ofrin, who is also a member of the JMG, is likely to participate in the meeting,” a source told PTI.

A surge in the infection rate caused by the new variant of the coronavirus has led to millions entering a stringent new stay-at-home lockdown in the UK from Sunday, with non-essential shops and businesses now closed.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new rules at a briefing from 10 Downing Street on Saturday evening, which means a planned five-day “Christmas bubble” of relaxed rules has been cancelled in favour of a new Tier 4 level to the current three-tier lockdown system to try and control the surge in infections being caused by the new mutation of the deadly virus.  “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 in an exclusive interview. He was asked about India’s vaccination drive against coronavirus “India is not less than any country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine and research. Our first priority has been the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We do not want any comprise on that. Our regulators are analyzing them with seriousness,” he said.

“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 had said addressing the 22nd Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting on COVID-19. Th ere are six COVID-19 vaccine candidates in different clinical trial stages in India including Covishield, Covaxin, ZyCoV-D, Sputnik V, NVX-CoV2373 and recombinant protein antigen-based vaccine. Besides this, three COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in the pre-clinical stage of which one of the coronavirus vaccine candidates is in the pre-development stage being researched by Aurobindo Pharma, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

“Six vaccines are in the clinical trial stage. And there are three vaccines in the pre-clinical stage. Some of them may get licensed in the coming weeks but we cannot foretell at this moment of time because licensing is the domain of the national regulator the Drugs Controller General of India,” Bhushan had said at a press conference.

“These vaccines are of two to three doses. Even after vaccination, COVID-19 precautions must be followed as advised by the scientists,” he noted.

Referring to Covaxin, being manufactured by Bharat Biotech International Limited, Hyderabad in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), he said it is in phase 3 trials and is on an inactivated virus platform. The manufacturers have applied for emergency use authorisation.

With 26,624 new COVID-19 cases recorded in the last 24 hours, India’s total coronavirus cases reached 1,00,31,223, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare  on Sunday.

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