More than half of India’s adult population has received at least one dose of anti-coronavirus vaccine while 18 per cent got both the shots, the Union government said on Thursday as the total number of jabs administered in the country crossed 72 crore.
Addressing a press conference, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said India is still going through the second wave of COVID-19 and it is not over yet.
He said 35 districts are still reporting a weekly Covid positivity rate of over 10 per cent while in 30 districts it is between five to 10 per cent.
Providing data about COVID-19 cases reported from different parts of the country, officials said 68.59 per cent of the total infection registered in the country last week was from Kerala.
Stressing that mass gatherings should be discouraged, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research Dr Balram Bhargava advised low-key celebration of festivals this year to avoid the spread of the viral infection.
“This will give us an opportunity to celebrate festivals in a bigger way next year,” he said. Bhargava also put emphasis on “responsible travel rather than revenge travel”.
Travel to tourist destinations during festive seasons should be curtailed while following Covid-appropriate behaviour and use of masks have to be continued, he said.
Supplementing Bhargava, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul advised people to celebrate festivals within the family and warned that a large section of the population is still susceptible to COVID-19.
About resuming physical classes in schools, he said no scientific body, epidemiology and no evidence suggest that vaccination against COVID-19 should be a condition to reopen schools. However, inoculation of teachers, other school employees and parents is desirable, he said.
“There is no WHO recommendation also that we should move in that direction for reasons such as low mortality and high incidence of asymptomatic infection. We as a nation and government are working actively in the direction of scientific validation of our vaccines for potential use in children,” he said.
About the vaccination drive, the Union health secretary said 99 per cent of the healthcare workers have received the first dose while 84 per cent got the second dose. While all frontline workers have been administered the first dose, 80 per cent of them have been given the second dose, he said.
“Eighteen per cent of India’s adult population received both the doses of anti-coronavirus vaccine while 58 per cent were administered at least one dose,” an official said, adding that in Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Himachal Pradesh, all people above 18 years got at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the data shared at the press conference, the average daily Covid vaccine doses administered in a month increased from 19.69 lakh in May to 39.89 lakh in June, 43.41 lakh in July and 59.19 lakh in August. The average daily vaccination in the first seven days of September has been 78.10 lakh.
To a question on the availability of Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines in India which have received emergency use authorisation, Paul said, “The EUA status is well-known for both Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. That option is open.”
“About their import or deployment from local production of Johnson and Johnson, there are issues around which we still have to find a common ground with respect to manufacturers and we are working in that direction,” he said.
About what is the rate of breakthrough infection after vaccination, Bhargava said the data is still being studied.
“These vaccines are disease-modifying and not disease-preventing. So, breakthrough infections will occur even after vaccination. That is why we recommend continued use of masks and following Covid-appropriate behaviour. It is very important to continue using masks even after vaccination,” he said.