Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), headed by Dr Paul, has recommended that 10 million healthcare staff, 20 million frontline workers and 270 million people over the age of 50 or with co-morbidities be given the vaccines on priority once it becomes available.(AP)
India has received requests for vaccines against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) from 12 countries, said NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul on Saturday during the meeting of the high-level group of ministers (GoM) on Covid-19.
Dr Paul informed the GoM about the vaccine candidates in trial in India, the manufacturers, doses to become available and conditions for storage. He also spoke about the target populations who would receive the vaccines once they become available.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), headed by Dr Paul, has recommended that 10 million healthcare staff, 20 million frontline workers and 270 million people over the age of 50 or with co-morbidities be given the vaccines on priority once it becomes available.
Three companies have already applied for emergency use authorisation of their vaccines – US-based Pfizer which has not conducted any studies in India, Serum Institute of India for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine that it would be manufacturing, and Bharat Biotech that has developed its vaccine indigenously with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
Apart from discussions on vaccines, the GoM, which met for the first time since October, was also provided data on the current situation of the infection in the country by the director of the National Centre for Disease Control Dr Sujeet Singh.
He presented an analysis of the pandemic in each state, pointing out critical parameters like positivity rate, breakup of the proportion of rapid antigen test and RT-PCR, concentration of cases in particular districts, and fatality within 48 and 72 hours of hospitalisation.
The union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan pointed out that the health seeking behaviour was the key driver in keeping the fatalities in check. He said there was a paradox with some states and union territories reporting a very high number of cases but minimal fatalities while others reporting low number of cases and comparatively high fatality.
“This results from people not coming forward for testing even if they are symptomatic in the second category of states. People in the states and union territories with a vibrant public healthcare system are tracked and encouraged to be tested by grassroots health workers which inhibits the progress of Covid-19 to an advanced stage and keeps their fatality rate at minimum,” he said.
The Union health secretary had earlier said that getting tested when symptomatic was also Covid-19 appropriate behaviour along with wearing masks, maintaining social distance and washing hands frequently. He said the government’s policy on allowing testing on demand without prescriptions can help.
“We are planning to give the vaccine to almost 30 crore people, we will be able to get rid of the virus as best as possible,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister at the beginning of the meeting, thanking the healthcare workers.
He said, despite festivals in the months of October and November, there was no new surge in the number of cases due to testing, tracking and treatment policy implemented on ground. He appealed to people that they follow Covid appropriate behaviours especially at a time when the country is on the verge of authorising the first set of Covid-19 vaccines.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar, aviation minister Hardeep Puri, minister of state for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey, and minister of state for home affairs Nityanand Rai were present at the meeting. They were joined virtually by advisors to the PM Amarjeet Sinha and Bhaskar Khulbe, Secretary (Textiles) Ravi Capoor, Secretary (Pharma) S Aparna, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, and other senior government officials.