COVID-like pandemics can pose a threat to the country's internal security and policy makers should address this challenge, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Friday.
Addressing the all-party meeting convened by the government to discuss the COVID-19 situation, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also said that the country should be well placed to get vaccines at affordable prices and at an early stage.
"COVID-like pandemics can be one of the greatest threats to the internal security of any country. In the future, policy makers at the national level should include COVID-like pandemics as a threat to internal security, besides external threats and internal insurgencies, if any," Azad said in the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Expressing hope that the country's pharma manufacturers in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will get the final nod from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for a COVID-19 vaccine soon, he said that mechanisms for delivery of vaccine at the grassroots level should be ready.
"Considering the challenges due to the population and size of the country, we should be well placed to get vaccines at an affordable price and at an early stage," he told the meeting.
Scientists, policy makers and political leaders must work together to set parameters for vaccine prioritisation and distribution, said Azad, a former Union health minister.
Calling for prioritisation of target population groups like healthcare workers, the elderly, police and those dealing with COVID-19-related activities, he said adequate trained human resources should also be developed.
The government must prepare for building capacities for vaccine availability up to the district, community and primary health care levels, the Congress leader said.
"We are hopeful that a vaccine will be introduced shortly," he said.
The UK has already approved a vaccine for use domestically and in India too, several vaccine candidates are in advanced clinical trials, Azad said.
"I am sure by January, our pharmaceutical manufacturers in collaboration with the ICMR will get a final nod from the DCGI," he said.
He also asked the government to deal with issues of storage, distribution, number of dosages, eligibility and side effects of the vaccine.
The Congress leader called for putting in place a vaccine safety monitoring mechanism in place to assess the adverse events after immunisation.
"There could be adverse effects or side effects or even long term after effects which may need time to be identified and which are not discovered in Phase I, II or phase III clinical trials. India has to be more cautious since we have a large and young population and the government should rigorously monitor the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine," he said.
Azad thanked doctors, nurses, paramedics, security forces and sanitation workers for their contribution and paid tributes to those front line doctors and workers who lost their lives in saving others during the pandemic.