New Delhi: Four out of the 14 COVID-19 vaccine candidates from India may enter the clinical trial stage in the next three-five months, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday.
In an online interaction with BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, Vardhan said the entire world was working on developing a vaccine to halt the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"There are more than 100 candidates for developing a vaccine that are working at different levels. The WHO is coordinating the efforts," the health minister said.
"India is also actively contributing to that effort. We have 14 vaccine candidates that are working on different levels," he said. "Industry, academic world are contributing to it and our Ministry of Science is helping the Department of Biotechnology in all such efforts."
Financial support and regulatory clearance will be provided to those who are working on this, Vardhan said.
"Out of these 14, four vaccine candidates, in the next three-five months, may enter the clinical trial stage. Right now, they are in the pre-clinical trial phase," the minister said.
"It's very difficult to predict when a vaccine will come, but as a doctor, I can say that the process it involves, one year would be a modest estimate," he said. "Till the vaccine is not developed, people should use social vaccines like the mask and social distancing."
The Centre and private firms have stepped up efforts to develop a vaccine to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The PM CARES Fund Trust has decided to allocate Rs 100 crore in efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
A PMO statement had said that a coronavirus vaccine was the most pressing need and Indian academia, start-ups and industry had come together in cutting-edge design and development.
The Department of Biotechnology has been made a central coordination agency to identify pathways for vaccine development.
'Cases to surge from migrant influx, but India is ready'
Earlier, the health minister said that coronavirus cases will increase in different parts of the country till the migrant influx continues. However, he assured that the situation is being closely monitored and the country's health infrastructure is ready to handle the situation.
"If we have relaxed the lockdown and are sending lakhs of migrant workers to their destinations with confidence, that clearly indicates that we know our situation and are closely monitoring it. Our strategies are ready. We are testing migrant workers and quarantining them.
"I think for one to two weeks, the cases will increase till all of them reach their states.
"However I want to say to people of this country that if the relaxations are used optimally with discipline, by following social distancing and hygiene, using masks etc, we will be able to restore normal life."
Noting that India successfully handled the situation during dangerous diseases like Nipah and Ebola, Harsh Vardhan said: "We know the location of our COVID cases due to our surveillance mechanism and are doing everything required as per the strategy to stop it from spreading."
(With inputs from PTI)