The rapidness at which coronavirus vaccines are being developed will have a significant effect on new technologies that will help in faster drug discoveries, lowering the cost and making it more affordable for the poor, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday. The process, which used to take 10 years to produce vaccines, is now done in almost 10 months, Vardhan said while addressing the Boston Center of Excellence (BoCE) for Health and Human Development through video conference.

The health minister saluted the millions of frontline workers and elaborated India’s strategy to contain the virus. “It is not the first one and definitely not the last one. But this COVID 19 will soon be a past episode of the 21st century. Our treatment protocol for COVID patients is well defined now,” a statement quoted Vardhan as saying.

“Fewer and fewer people infected are dying. We will have vaccines available very soon and the cases will significantly go down in the next few months,” he said. “The rapidness with which we have been able to create vaccines will have a cascading effect on new technologies that will help us all in the near future in faster drug discoveries, lowering the cost and making it more affordable for poorer sections of our population,” Vardhan said.

“The process that used to take 10 years, now produces vaccines almost in 10 months — developed, tested, and soon will be available in the market,” he added. The knowledge of drug discovery will also help to develop in several new frontiers, as they may enable to find a cure for many viral ailments that do not respond to antibiotics, Vardhan said, expressing hope that the research might have potential in treating superbugs.

He compared the pandemic to a “transitory state of our civilization”. “We have not seen the Spanish Flu, World War I and World War II. But we are living in a phase of a silent war,” he said. The minister said India had already mastered all components of modern medicine, from antibiotics to emergency care, surgery, immunisation and vaccine, adding that the focus was now on the quality and affordability of this system, which is becoming more complex.

He elaborated that India had already made strides in remote diagnostics and treatment using the latest telemedicine technology to treat people in many remote villages of the country. Speaking on yoga and ayurveda, Vardhan described them as India’s “gift” to the world.

“The ancient knowledge and health-management system have been using nature’s cure for millennia. The time has come for modern medicine and India’s traditional system to go together with an integrative approach to impact our lives and much better disease outcomes,” he said. Vardhan invited knowledge and technology experts, and inventors to come to India, join hands with the country’s scientists and experts, and create a great collaborative platform to heal people all round the globe, the statement added.

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