New Delhi:

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday saidthe government has not yet taken a view on granting emergency authorisation to COVID-19 vaccines in India, as and when they become available. The minister also said that the indigenously developed Feluda paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis could be rolled out in the next few weeks.

Presently COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of phases 1, 2 and 3 ofhuman clinical trials, the results of which are awaited, Vardhan said during an interaction with his social media followers on the fifth episode 'SundaySamvaad' platform.

"Adequate safety and efficacy data is required for emergency use authorisation, vaccine approval for ensuring patient safety. Further course of action will depend on the data generated," he underlined.

The ministerhad earlier said that a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by the first quarter of 2021.

Categorically rejecting speculation that the government is prioritizing young and working-class for the COVID-19 vaccine for economic reasons, Vardhan said, the prioritisation of groups for COVID-19 vaccine shall be based on two key considerations — occupational hazard and risk of exposure to infection, and the risk of developing severe disease and increased mortality.

Asked how the government plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, he said that it is anticipated that supplies of vaccines would be available in limited quantities in the beginning. In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritise vaccine delivery based on various factors such as the risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among COVID-19 cases, and several others," the minister said.

He also added that India is looking at the availability of several different types of vaccines, of which some may be suitable for a particular age group while others may not be so. He reiterated that the most important component of the planning is the cold chain and other logistics to ensure no glitches occur in vaccine delivery even at the last mile.

On the need to include other candidates of COVID-19 vaccine, Vardhan said considering the large population size of India, one vaccine or vaccine manufacturer will not be able to fulfil the requirements of vaccinating the whole country. "Therefore, we are open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several COVID-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability for the Indian population, he said.