India COVID Vaccine Could be Ready 'Within Weeks,' Says PM Modi

India could have a COVID vaccine ready within weeks, the country's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an all-party meeting on Friday, the prime minister said that his government would likely wait until an Indian-made vaccine was ready before approving any shot, the Hindustan Times reported.

"Experts believe we don't have to wait for a long period to get a vaccine," the prime minister said. "It is understood that in the next few weeks, COVID vaccines will be ready. The government is waiting for a go-ahead from the scientists."

Three Indian-made COVID-19 vaccines are currently at different stages of clinical trials, while several more are being tested and manufactured in the country.

In late November, India's health minister, Harsh Vardhan, said that the leading Indian candidate, COVAXIN, being developed by private company Bharat Biotech could complete its final clinical trials within a month or two, Reuters reported.

During the all-party meeting on Friday, Modi outlined for the first the first time how the vaccine could be distributed among India's vast population of around 1.3 billion people.

"The first priority would be given to healthcare workers, frontline workers and old people with co-morbidities," Modi said.

India currently has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections after the United States with more than 9.5 million confirmed cases an over 139,000 deaths from the disease.

Vardhan said in November that the government planned to immunize 250 million Indians by July 2020.

Given that wealthy western nations have snapped up most of the early supplies of the leading Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Indian officials are expecting to rely on COVAXIN, as well as well as others being tested in the country, including Russia's Sputnik V candidate and the shot developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

The latter three candidates are priced cheaper than either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, making them a more attractive option for many nations around the world.

"The world is looking at a cheap but effective vaccine against COVID-19. The world is looking at India. You can be assured our scientists are working hard," Modi said.

Once a vaccine is approved in India, Modia said the country had a "large and experienced" vaccination network that it could rely on. "We will fully use it."

The prime minister said teams from central and state governments are now working together on the issue of vaccine distribution.

Narendra Modi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters in New Delhi on November 11. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images