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India firming plans for COVID-19 vaccine roll out mid-2021

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.154 Published online 4 October 2020

India is expecting to roll out about 500 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and immunise 20 to 25 crore people by July 2021, health minister Harsh Vardhan said today.

Replying to question during his scheduled Sunday interactions on social media, the minister said India is building capacity in human resources, training and supervision for a massive scale roll out. His ministry is in the process of identifying population groups, such as health workers involved in COVID-19 management, senior citizens and those with co-morbidities, to receive the vaccine on priority. 

By the end of October 2020, Vardhan said, states are expected to submit their priority lists and cold chain infrastructure preparedness to help create an efficient vaccine delivery plan. The ministry will procure the vaccine units centrally from vaccine manufacturers and swiftly roll-out a nation-wide immunisation programme when a vaccine is ready, he said.

To widespread concerns of possible black-marketing of the vaccine, he said, “Vaccines 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.”

On whether India would undertake phase 3 clinical trials of Russia's controversial Sputnik-V vaccine, Vardhan said "the matter was still under consideration, and no decision has been taken yet".

In another inter-governmental science and technology ministers' meeting, secretary to India's science and technology department Ashutosh Sharma said several vaccines for the novel coronavirus were in advanced phases of trial in India, and the country has the capacity to supply the vaccine to a majority of the world.

Nature India’s latest coverage on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic here. More updates on the global crisis here.