NEW DELHI: Covid-19 vaccine could be available to India by 2021 but it will take time to reach the entire 135 crore people, said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
Speaking in Rajya Sabha over Covid-19 discussion, Vardhan said: "Under PM Modi's guidance, an expert group is looking at it and we have advanced planning in place. We are hopeful that by early 2021, a vaccine will be available to us. When the vaccine comes, it will take time before 135 crore people get it. That will be a time-consuming exercise.”
On charges by several MPs that state governments were not taken into confidence while imposing lockdown, the minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with all states chief ministers and experts on the issue.
“Entire country along with the PM and states have fought Covid-19 battle with honesty and responsibility. The PM has taken all decisions after making consensus with state governments and everyone. Five scientific agencies did assessment and data on Covid-19 deaths and numbers prevented due to lockdown has been based on their assessment,” he said.
Defending the government’s handling of Covid-19, Vardhan said that even before they found the first case in India, steps were initiated to counter the pandemic.
“On January 8, the matter was discussed with expert groups and on January 17, efforts were initiated towards detailed health preparedness and advisories were issued. The first case was reported on January 20, a medical student who came from China and for that 162 contacts were traced,” said the minister.
He said the country's Covid-19 mortality rate is 1.64 per cent, which is the lowest in the world, and the government is targeting to bring it down to less than 1 per cent.
“India's recovery rate of 78-79 per cent is one of the highest in the world. Total cases may have crossed 50 lakh, active cases are less than 20 per cent. Soon, we will surpass the US in the number of testing done per day,” he added.