Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Monday announced that coronavirus vaccination for those above 50 years will begin in the next 2-3 weeks.
The minister also added that about 18-19 coronavirus vaccine candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials and they maybe available for public use in the coming months.
"About 18-19 Covid-19 vaccine candidates are in the pipeline and are in preclinical, clinical and advanced stages. We are hopeful that we will be able to offer newer vaccines to India in the coming months," Vardhan said.
Vardhan further added that 80-85 percent of frontline workers have been vaccinated in the country. The minister also said that India will ship its Covid-19 vaccines to 20-25 nations.
Dispelling rumours surrounding the jabs, Vardhan said the vaccines are safe and effective.
He also said no new Covid-19 case has been reported in 188 districts of the country in the last seven days and in 21 districts in 21 days. However, he urged everyone to continue practising social distancing norms.
"It is crucial that people continue to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour which I call social vaccine, along with real vaccines," he said.
India has approved two vaccines -- Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India -- for emergency use in the country.
Vardhan said that though the government intends to bear the cost of vaccination for the second phase as well when people over the age of 50 years will be vaccinated, no decision has been taken in this regard.
The minister further said the pandemic has strengthened the country's health sector potential. "We turned a crisis into opportunity. From one lab, India has grown to 2,500 diagnostic labs, and genome sequencing, which is being talked about now, has been in Indian labs since May-June last year,” he noted.
(With PTI inputs)