Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the citizenry that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available with little delay. However, he urged continued vigilance and adherence to restrictions designed to curb the disease’s spread.
“Awaiting Corona’s vaccine,” the Prime Minister said whilst inaugurating a rail project in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. “As per my recent discussion with scientists, I hope there will be no more delay now. But there should be no carelessness in following COVID prevention measures.”
Earlier this month, Modi said India would commence a vaccination drive against COVID-19 – the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or, simply coronavirus – as soon as scientists gave the go-ahead. “The Centre is working on the basis of suggestions from state governments about who will be inoculated in the first phase of the vaccination drive,” he said. US$7 billion is earmarked for the vaccination drive.
“Our scientists are very confident of succeeding in their endeavour of developing a vaccine against COVID-19,” the Prime Minister added. “There are names of vaccines from different countries doing the rounds in the market, but the world is keeping a watch on having the cheapest and safest vaccine. That is why, it is natural that the world is watching India.”
The Prime Minister visited a number of vaccine manufacturers towards the end of November. They included the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune, Maharashtra; the Zydus Biotech Park in Ahmedabad, Gujarat; and the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad, Telangana.
Modi took to Twitter afterwards, writing positively of his experiences at the facilities. “At the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad, was briefed about their indigenous COVID-19 vaccine,” read one tweet by the Prime Minister. “Congratulated the scientists for their progress in the trials so far. Their team is closely working with [the] ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research] to facilitate speedy progress.”
Of his visit to the SII, he said that he “had a good interaction with the team…they shared details about their progress so far on how they plan to further ramp up vaccine manufacturing. Also took a look at their manufacturing facility.” Of the Zydus Biotech Park visit, the Prime Minister wrote “I compliment the team behind this effort for their work. [The] Government of India is actively working with them to support them in this journey.”
Both drugmaker Pfizer and the SII have requested emergency use authorisation for the respective vaccine candidates they are working on – the SII in partnership with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.