Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan told the Lok Sabha on Sunday that four coronavirus vaccines in India were in advanced stages of pre-clinical trials. The health minister responded to a question from Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on when the people of India could expect a vaccine to be launched, ANI reported.

“The pandemic cannot be prevented but the intensity of pandemic could have been mitigated,” Chowdhury was quoted as saying by the news agency. “The measure of mitigation was not up to the mark. I have doubts over coronavirus deaths in the country. I think there are serious under-reported deaths in our country. How many hospitals in the country can issue a medical certification for causing of death? Harsh Vardhan ji tell us, when the vaccine will come? Indians are waiting for the vaccine.”

The health minister replied: “Across the world, 145 vaccines are under pre-clinical trials while 35 are under clinical trials. In India, we gave complete support to 30 vaccine candidates. Three of these vaccines are in phases 1, 2, and 3 of advanced clinical trials. More than four vaccines are in advanced stages of the pre-clinical trial.”

Amid criticism of the government’s coronavirus-fighting strategy, the Union health minister told Lok Sabha MPs that the government had taken prompt action in the initial stages of the outbreak. He recounted the government’s efforts from the start.

“The World Health Organization warned countries about the outbreak on January 30 but our work began on January 8,” Vardhan claimed. The health minister added that the government had issued an extensive health advisory by January 17 and began strict surveillance and contact-tracing measures after the first case was reported on January 30.

He added: “Forty lakh people have been kept under surveillance. The health authorities undertook contact-tracing of one crore people. Fifteen lakh people were screened at airports.”

During Sunday’s session, several Opposition MPs had criticised the Centre for the way it has handled the coronavirus crisis. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor accused the government of “utter mismanagement”. He added that the government had neither managed to keep coronavirus cases in control nor keep the economy afloat.

The Union health minister had told the Rajya Sabha last week that the government expected a vaccine against the coronavirus to be available in India by the beginning of the next year. The country has reported 54,87,581 coronavirus cases and 87,882 deaths so far.

Follow today’s live updates on the coronavirus here