Vested interests spearheading misinformation campaign against NDHM: Harsh Vardhan

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS): Vested interests that do not want India to succeed are spearheading a disinformation campaign against the National Digital Health Mission, stated Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan while interacting with a social media audience on Sunday.

Vardhan clarified that the participation in the National Digital Health Mission is totally optional and would never be made mandatory for individuals. "Those persons or institutions who are not a part of this system shall continue to enjoy access to the health care system in exactly the same manner as they are doing now. Participation in the digital health ecosystem shall be totally optional and shall never be made mandatory for individuals," he said.

He further said that NDHM is one of the most ambitious missions of the government of India and is set to catapult India as a global leader in the field of digital health.

Vardhan made the statement during his 'Sunday Samvad' programme where he interacted with his social media followers and answered their questions.

During interaction with his audience, Vardhan also informed that All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and other research institutions have been asked to undertake research to study the long-term impact of COVID.

"ICMR is establishing a National Clinical Registry on COVID that will provide insights into clinical course of COVID-19 disease, its spectrum and outcome of patients. Expert group consultations are already going on to review the emerging evidence and generate our own data on organ system specific (respiratory system, renal system, cardiovascular and gastro-intestinal) sequelae of COVID," he said.

Besides, he also stated that the coronavirus vaccine might be ready by the first quarter of 2021. "While no date has been fixed for the vaccine launch, it may be ready by the first quarter of 2021," he said.

Harsh Vardhan also said the government is considering emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccination to senior citizens and people working in high-risk settings. "This shall be done after a consensus has been reached," he added.

The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 is drawing up a detailed strategy on how to immunise the majority of the population, Vardhan added further.

The Health Minister also assured that the government is taking full precautions in conducting the human trials of the vaccine.

"Issues like vaccine security, cost, equity, cold-chain requirements, production timelines, etc, are also being discussed intensely," he said. He assured the vaccine would be first made available to those who need it the most, irrespective of their paying capacity.

Harsh Vardhan also said he would be happy to take the first dosage of the vaccine if some people have a trust deficit.

His statement came in the wake of an incident in the UK where one of the participants in the ongoing trial of the University of Oxford's vaccine candidate developed a severe complication right after being administered its dose.

The minister also informed about vaccine candidates and their development in India.

"Department of Bio-Technology (DBT), as well as the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), have been pro-active in responding to the emerging situation to support the advancement of vaccine candidates. India is actively partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and trials at different phases are ongoing with respect to several vaccines in Indian laboratories (private or public) and hospitals," he said.

The minister also noted that a safe and effective vaccine will help in establishing immunity to Covid-19 at a much faster pace as compared to natural infection. It is hoped that a consensus will emerge in the next few months over the desired level of protective herd immunity in any community, he said.