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OPINION | Covid pandemic: Good news from the vaccination front


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OPINION | Covid pandemic: Good news from the vaccination front

India on Thursday reported a fall in the number of fresh Covid-19 cases, but the death figures continue to be high. During the last 24 hours, 3,43,144 fresh Covid cases and 4,000 deaths were reported across India, 3,44,776 patients were discharged from hospitals, and the number of active cases stood at 37,04,893. Till Friday morning 17.92 crore people have been vaccinated across India.

In the state list, Maharashtra continues to lead with 42,582 fresh Covid cases and 850 deaths, Karnataka with 35,297 fresh cases and 344 deaths, Tamil Nadu with 30,621 deaths and 297 deaths, Andhra Pradesh with 22,399 fresh cases and 89 deaths, West Bengal with 20,839 fresh cases and 129 deaths, Uttar Pradesh with 17,775 fresh cases and 281 deaths, Rajasthan with 15,867 fresh cases and 159 death, Bihar with 7,752 fresh cases, Uttarakhand with 7,217 fresh cases and 122 deaths, Madhya Pradesh with 8,419 fresh cases and 74 deaths, Telangana with 4,693 fresh cases and 33 deaths, and the small state of Goa with 2,491 fresh cases and 63 deaths.

There was a tragic incident on Thursday in Goa Medical College Hospital, where 15 more patients died due to lack of oxygen supply. On Tuesday, 26 Covid patients had died in this hospital due to lack of oxygen. According to officials, oxygen supply stopped from midnight till 8 am, killing 15 Covid-19 patients.

The situation has improved in the metros like Delhi and Mumbai, but it continues to be worse in Bengaluru. 10,489 fresh cases were reported in Delhi on Thursday and 308 deaths took place. The positivity rate has dropped to 14.3 per cent. There are presently 77,717 active cases in Delhi, and Delhi government has offered to give its surplus oxygen stocks to other states.

The Centre announced on Thursday that nearly 217 doses of Covid vaccines will be available for all Indians above the age of 18 years from August to December this year. Dr V K Paul, member, Niti Aayog said, there are 95 crore Indians who are above the age of 18. Meanwhile, 51.6 crore doses have been ordered which will be available till July.

Out of 216.8 crore doses planned till December, Serum Institute of India will supply 75 crore Covishield doses, Bharat Biotech will provide 55 crore Covaxin doses, Bio E subunit will provide 30 crore doses, Novavax vaccine 20 crore doses, Sputnik V 15.6 crore doses, Zydus Cadilla DNA 5 crore doses, BB nasal vaccine 10 crore doses and Gennova mRNA 6 crore doses. By the first quarter of next year, nearly 300 crore doses will be available, according to Health Ministry.

Pharma company Dr Reddy’s Lab will manufacture Russian Sputnik V vaccine doses in India. Production will begin in July. This Russian vaccine has been 92 per cent effective during trials. Meanwhile, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has recommended second Covishield dose after a gap of 12 to 16 weeks. Earlier, the gap was four to six weeks.

A report in the medical journal Lancet has observed that Covishield vaccine will be more effective if the second dose is given after a gap of three months. Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla has also said, there should be two to three months gap between two doses of Covishield. In Britain and Canada, Covishield second dose is being given after a gap of four months. The NTAGI has advised that people who have recovered from Covid-19 should be given vaccine doses only after a gap of six months, because antibodies remain inside the body from the date of recovery till six months.

With the Centre announcing its intention to make 216 crore doses available till December, the roadmap is now clear. This has nixed the doubts and pessimism being spread by political naysayers as stocks of vaccine doses ran out. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government is quite clear on this point. Every Indian will be administered Covid vaccine and all-out efforts shall be made to procure, manufacture and distribute vaccines. But state governments will have to pull up their socks to see that the vaccines are administered to villagers and slum dwellers who do not have access to CoWin app.

We sent our reporter Gonika Arora to a slum area in Delhi near Commonwealth Games village. Most of the slum dwellers said, nobody from the administration came to tell them to get vaccinated. Most of these dwellers did not have smart phones. Many of them said that it would be better if the local administration come to their locality and administer vaccines on the basis of Aadhar cards. There were also baseless rumours floating about the vaccines in that slum area. India TV reporter Rajiv Kumar in Mumbai went to Muachhimar, fishermen’s locality. They had no information about getting their names registered on CoWin app. Most of the fishermen went for vaccination, but came back empty handed because their names were not registered. State governments will have to do a lot of micro-tasking to ensure that the poor and unprivileged get vaccinated easily.

As of now, nearly 100 vaccination centres have been closed down in Delhi due to non-availability of vaccines, while Mumbai has stopped vaccinating people below the age of 45 years due to lack of stocks. Till now, 21 crore people in India have registered their names on CoWin app, but are waiting for their vaccines. On Thursday alone, more than 22 lakhs people registered their names for vaccination. The nationwide vaccination drive is indeed massive, and it requires close coordination between the Centre, the states and private sector.

Let me make a point here. Even if all the vaccines in countries across the world are added up, it will be less than what India requires for its huge population above the age of 18. The harsh reality is that vaccines are just not available in the world market. Only Sinopharm Chinese vaccines are available, but the government has not yet given clearance to the Chinese vaccine. US vaccine manufacturer Pfizer had applied in India, but later withdrew its application, because it had sought protection from legal liabilities. About nearly 2 crore Astra Zeneca (Covishield) doses available in the US, the FDA is yet to give approval for supplying them to India. The company in Baltimore that manufactured this doses is now embroiled in a dispute involving the FDA. The doses may continue to remain in the US, unless the company improves its efficacy.

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