Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said the government aims to bring down India’s Covid-19 mortality rate to less than 1 per cent from the current 1.64 per cent, which, he mentioned, is still the lowest in the world.
Replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha, Vardhan said the country’s recovery rate of 78-79 per cent is one of the highest in the world, and although total cases may have crossed 50 million, active cases are less than 20 per cent.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, meanwhile, noted that several countries have already secured favourable commitment for supply of a Covid-19 vaccine, and India should be well placed to get the vaccine at an “affordable price” and at an “early stage” through a mechanism such as pooled procurement.
However, Azad cautioned, the government should be extra “cautious” about the quality, safety and efficacy of a new vaccine, as any long-term side-effects would impact a country with a large and young population.
In his reply to the Upper House on the second day of discussion on the pandemic and steps taken by the Centre, Vardhan said deaths in India due to the pandemic are less than many European countries and the government is determined to better the testing rate of the US. He said there are chances that a vaccine could come in the country early next year but until then it is necessary for people to follow physical distancing norms and wear masks.
“We want to bring it (mortality rate) to less than 1 per cent. We have 50 lakh cases right now but out of these, only 10 lakh are active cases,” Vardhan said.
On development of a vaccine, he said the Science and Technology Ministry, ICMR and drug companies have come together for a solution. This matter, he added, is being personally monitored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Vaccines can come in future. Extensive planning is underway to execute how to manage the scenario, “ Vardhan said.
He said there are three vaccine candidates which have reached phase one, two or phase three level. “Under the Prime Minister, an expert group is studying this. We expect that by the beginning of next year we can have a vaccine in the country. In this regard we are also coordinating with the World Health Organization and global organisations,” he said.
Replying to Congress member Anand Sharma’s question on Wednesday — on how the government had deduced that the nationwide lockdown prevented approximately 14-29 lakh Covid-19 cases and 37,000-78,000 deaths in the country — Vardhan said the government had derived the figures from the findings of five scientific bodies, including the Boston Consulting Group, PHFI and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. “These agencies did five studies and based on that we prepared this data,” he said.
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