Experts believe that a COVID vaccine "will be ready in the next few weeks", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday during an all-party meeting, asserting that India's vaccination programme would begin as soon as scientists give the permission.
"Experts expect that the vaccine will be ready within next few weeks itself. Once scientists approve it, the nation-wide vaccination drive will be started in India. Our scientists are very confident of succeeding in their endeavour of making COVID-19 vaccine. The world is keeping a watch on the cheapest and safe vaccine," he said during the meeting which was attended by about 12 leaders from prominent political parties.
PM Modi, who, last week visited India's top vaccine hubs to personally review the development of coronavirus vaccine and the manufacturing process also assured that the country has the necessary infrastructure to manufacture the vaccine at a large scale. Nearly eight vaccines are at different stages of trial with their manufacturing assured in India, PM Modi said.
"The vaccine distribution and administration is given to a national experts group. Advice will be taken from them on a comprehensive and real-time manner. India has the facilities needed to manufacture the vaccine at a large scale. In fact, our preparation is better than most others," PM Modi said at the meeting, which is the second such meet called by the government since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Three vaccines from India are also at different stages of trial, he said.
"Centre is in talks with state governments over the price of vaccine and decision regarding it will be taken keeping public health as topmost priority," he added.
Frontline healthcare workers, who include police personnel and municipal staff, and old people suffering from serious conditions would be inoculated on priority, he said.
From the time of fear and apprehensions in the months of February and March, when India reported its first COVID cases, to this atmosphere of "hope and confidence" in December, India has come a long way, he said.
"India is one of the few countries where the testing and recovery rates are very high and the mortality rate is very low. Compared to developed countries, India has fought against COVID much better and has managed to save a lot of lives," PM Modi said.
PM Modi also urged political parties to keep the masses aware and protect them from rumours which, he added, are often spread whenever there is a mass vaccination exercise. "We must make sure rumours are not spread during vaccination, rumours that are anti-national and anti-human," he said.
About 12 leaders from prominent political parties, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad (who is representing the Congress), Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) and Sharad Pawar of the NCP attended the virtual meeting. Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary also attended the meeting which started around 10:30 am.
Apart from PM Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan were present in the meeting. Parliamentary Affairs Ministers Pralhad Joshi and ministers of state in the same ministry Arjun Ram Meghwal and V Muraleedharan, who reached out to floor leaders for the meeting, also attended the virutal meet, according to reports.
PM Modi has held four important meetings on Vaccine Delivery and Distribution related preparedness in the last two weeks.
Last week, PM Modi visited India's top vaccine hubs in Ahmedabad, Pune and Hyderabad to personally review the development of coronavirus vaccine and the manufacturing process. The visit, PM Modi's office said, was meant to help him get a "first-hand perspective of the preparations, challenges and roadmap in India's endeavour to vaccinate its citizens".
While India has logged the second-highest number of cases in the world after the United States, it is one of the countries with the lowest deaths per million population globally.
This morning India added 36,595 fresh infections, taking the overall coronavirus case count to 95.71 lakh. The country's Covid death count rose to 1,39,188 as 540 people lost their lives in this period.
With inputs from agencies