April 13, 2021

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Voice Of India

Free Covid Vaccines to 3 Crore in First Phase, Details on 27 Crore Others Being Finalised: Dr Harsh Vardhan

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Inspecting the vaccination dry run in Delhi, union health minister Harsh Vardhan urged the public not to pay heed to anti-vaccine rumours.

As India gears up to launch the world’s largest immunisation drive, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan urged the public not to pay heed to anti-vaccine rumours and said around 3 crore priority beneficiaries across the country will receive the shots free of cost in Phase 1 of the inoculation drive.

“I want to appeal to people to not believe in any rumours. Our prime criteria in the vaccine trial are the safety and efficacy and nothing will be compromise.

Different kinds of rumours were also spread during polio immunisation, but people took the vaccine and now India is polio-free,” Vardhan told reporters after reviewing the dry vaccination run at a government hospital in the capital.

Later in a tweet, the minister said, “In 1st phase of COVID-19 vaccination free vaccine shall be provided across the nation to most prioritised beneficiaries that incl 1 crore healthcare & 2 crore frontline workers. Details of how further 27 cr priority beneficiaries are to be vaccinated until July are being finalized (sic).”

Earlier in the day, however, he said the vaccine will be free across the country. “Not just in Delhi, it will be free across the country,” news agency ANI quoted the minister as saying when asked if the Covid-19 vaccine will be provided free of cost.

The dry run is being conducted in all states and union territories to test the linkages between planning and implementation as India prepares to roll out the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Phase 1 immunisation in the coming days.

The shot was recommended for emergency use approval by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on Friday. The SEC recommendation has been forwarded to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for final approval.

The application for the Oxford-AztraZeneca vaccine was filed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing the doses for India and other countries, while Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech had applied for emergency use authorisation for its Covaxin shot.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has asked Bharat Biotech to expedite volunteer recruitment for the ongoing clinical trial and recommended it may conduct interim efficacy analysis for further consideration of restricted emergency use approval for Covaxin.

While granting the restricted emergency use approval for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, the panel imposed certain regulatory provisions, including that the shot is indicated for active immunisation in individuals of 18 years or more and that it should be administered intramuscularly in two doses at an interval of 4 to 6 weeks.

Further, the SII should submit safety, efficacy, and immunogenicity data from the ongoing clinical trials in the country and across the globe for review at the earliest.