Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday that more COVID-19 vaccines are on their way to be introduced in India after the country launched the world's biggest vaccination drive with two made-in-India shots earlier this month.
Addressing the 4th edition of the Future Investment Initiative Forum being hosted in Riyadh through video conference, Vardhan informed that Serum Institute will supply COVID-19 vaccine Covishield to Saudi Arabia.
He said it is evident that the current crisis will reshape the world as one knew.
"Mankind will only remember one thing from the year 2020 that is the deadly virus that created devastation across the world. But at the same time, it will also be remembered how science and healthcare sectors came to the rescue in a record time," he said.
The health minister said the pandemic has also resulted in heightened nationalism, but it has also shown us how important global cooperation is for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Also, never before innovation and technology were so relevant to our lives, he said.
Vardhan said the pandemic also forced everyone to come out of denial regarding damages to the environment.
"The lesson to humankind is very clear that health is more important than anything else. We never earlier realised how global cooperation is important for all of us. So, we must realise that the rewards must be distributed everywhere, regardless of when it is developed," he added.
Another impact of the pandemic has been a rapid expansion of telemedicine facilities and this crisis has given rise to a large number of health start-ups, he said.
At the same time, it also calls for a greater security net against medical expenses, he said.
The minister said India launched the world's largest vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines made in India and more are in progress to be introduced soon.
He also informed everyone present that Serum Institute will supply Covishield to Saudi Arabia.
He also assured the investors that the pace of progress in India will continue on an upward trajectory.
On India's indigenous innovations and contributions in digital health tools to monitor COVID-19 management,Vardhan noted, "The aarogya setu app is being used by over more than 160 million Indians through their smart phones. Bluetooth tracing technology is used to analyse and find COVID hotspots and alert the local administration in advance under the ITIHAS+AS patch of Aarogya Setu App."
Explaining this achievement in terms of the broader vision of integrating innovation in healthcare, he continued, We have also tried at many levels to strengthen this culture through start-up challenges or Hackathons for the youth, where they experience innovation themselves. Today, a comprehensive eco-system from research and development to tech-entrepreneurship is being prepared in India."
Summing up India's efforts in strengthening of infrastructure for global growth, the Union Health Minister stated that India has rolled out a special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 2 million crore which is equivalent to 10 per cent of India's GDP under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and in the health sector, the fund is targeted towards increased investments in public health and health reforms to prepare India for future obstacles.Expanding on the scope of this economic package on public health, he said, "Duly monitoring the evolving situation, India will roll out a sustained and planned investment in public healthcare delivery system to develop and strengthen health systems across a continuum of care to meet challenges of current and future pandemics."