Even as scientists and drug makers all over the world race against time to find a safe vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, told an English daily that India’s first indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine, COVAXIN, could be available by the end of this year. Recently, it was reported that the Oxford’s COVID-19, dubbed Covishield in India, is likely to be the first shots available for Indians by the end of 2020 if trials succeed.

Apart from the COVAXIN jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and ICMR, the Zydus Cadila’ ZyCoV-D vaccine and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s candidate being produced by the Serum Institute of India are being tested across the country. According to the report, the government is considering an initial order of about 50 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccine for certain groups of people such as frontline workers and army personnel.

On Thursday, India’s Covid-19 caseload went past 28 lakh with a record single-day spike of 69,652 infections, according to the Union Health Ministry data. Asked about when infections are projected to peak across India, following a fall in fresh cases, the Health Minister said that it was difficult to predict that.

India being a large country, he said the outbreak was heterogeneous in different states with respect to their vulnerability, the maturity of outbreak, and the number of confirmed cases.

He added that the outbreak was likely to peak at different points in cities and states, and the variety in implementation measures, including the proportion of people taking preventive measures, played a role in this. He said these factors made it difficult to say when a drop in new cases would take place.

Various experts across the duration of the outbreak, have said that a vaccine is direly needed for the world to go back to some normality in its operations. Asked about when a vaccine would be ready for use in India, Vardhan said that vaccine trials against Covid-19 were being fast-tracked globally.

He said the efficacy of India-made vaccines would be known by the year-end, upon completion of trials. Adding that the Oxford vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India was already being produced on a parallel end, he said this would reduce the time needed to market it.

Developed by Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical firm Bharat Biotech, the human trials of ‘COVAXIN’ had started two weeks back and could be available by the end of 2020, Vardhan said.

He told HT the Serum Institute of India had informed that it was ready to begin human trials in India this month and was hoping to have the AstraZeneca vaccine available by the year-end. The ZyCoV-D from Zydus Cadila could complete its clinical trials in a few months too, he added.

Reiterating that “test-track-treat” was the key strategy of the government to move forward in the fight against COVID-19, Dr Vardhan noted that India was home to the world’s vaccine manufacturing industrial base, providing two-thirds of childhood vaccines being used globally.

Meanwhile, Russia has expressed confidence in India’s ability to mass produce its coronavirus vaccine, named ‘Sputnik V’, saying it is looking for collaboration. On August 11, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had become the first country in the world to give regulatory approval to COVID-19 vaccine. Moscow said the vaccine developed by state-run Gamaleya institute will be tested on 40,000 people next week to assess its reliability.