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Over 20 lakh health workers inoculated in first 10 days

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Key Highlights

  • Over 20 lakh health workers vaccinated in India within the first 10 days
  • India’s COVID-19 vaccination exercise comes amidst consistent decline in new cases
  • Union Health Ministry ramping up efforts to tackle vaccine hesitancy & rumour-mongering

India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive is gathering momentum with over 20 lakh health workers vaccinated within the first 10 days, according to Health Ministry’s updated data on Tuesday. In terms of states, Karnataka leads the list with over 2.3 lakh people vaccinated so far.

VACCINATION: TOP STATES

Karnataka 2,30,119

Odisha 1,77,090

Andhra Pradesh 1,55,453

Maharashtra 1,35,609

Uttar Pradesh 1,23,761

West Bengal 1,21,615

Source: PIB (Jan 25, 7:10 PM)

While the scale and extent of vaccination in India are much larger than other countries, the exercise has faced quite a few challenges. Vaccine hesitancy has been a major challenge in states like Tamil Nadu (68,916) and Punjab (39,414) while states like Rajasthan and Haryana have done exceedingly well on that front. Haryana, for instance, has covered over 50% of the total target of 1.86 lakh in the first round of vaccination itself. The other major concern has been the technical snags around the I.T. architecture of the vaccination programme, Co-WIN.

Consistent Decline In New COVID Cases

The vaccination programme, which is the world’s largest such initiative, comes amidst the consistent decline in new cases. Over the last 24 hours, only 9102 people have tested positive. This is the lowest number of daily new cases in the last 8 months. Active cases are now 1.66% of the cumulative positive cases which is the among the lowest in the world. India’s active cases per million stood at 128 which is much better than U.S. (29,547), UK(28,241), Italy (8138), Brazil (4431), Russia (3,549) and Germany (3,309). The overall active cases count stood at 1,77,266 at the last reading. The overall fatality rate stood at 1.44% which is also among the lowest in the world. India’s deaths per million population stood at 111. In comparison, other countries like the UK (1,442 deaths per million), Italy (1,413), U.S. (1,251), Brazil (1,018) and Russia (479) have reported a much larger number of deaths per million population.

Spread Getting Restricted To Fewer Regions

Only five states and union territories accounted for 63.25% of 117 case fatalities reported in the last 24 hours. 82% of the new cases in the last 24 hours have been reported from just 8 states and union territories (Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh) hinting that the overall spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has been largely restricted to few states. Testing has also been consistent with over 19.30 crore samples tested so far. On Monday, over 7.25 lakh samples were tested.

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy & Other Concerns

While the Union Health Ministry has sought to allay the fears and ease the anxiety over AEFI cases, the extent of AEFI has been much smaller than feared, so far. Initial data showed that only 11 people experienced AEFI to the extent of hospitalisation out of 15.37 lakh people inoculated at that point. The Health Ministry said that the analysis post mortem reports of the six out of seven people dead so far after inoculations showed that the deaths were not related to the COVID vaccinations. Additional Health Secretary Manohar Agnani has clarified that none of the deaths was causally linked to COVID vaccination.

A recent survey by community engagement forum LocalCircles hinted that only 40% of Indians were willing to take the vaccine shot while 54% preferred to wait further before taking a decision on vaccination. 3% preferred to wait for over a year before taking the vaccine while 6% of the total 8,099 respondents preferred to not take the vaccine at all.

The Union Health Ministry has ramped up the campaign against vaccine hesitancy and rumour-mongering against vaccines. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has written to state chief secretaries to usher in tough measures to check the spread of rumours against vaccines.

Ajay Bhalla has hinted at possible penal actions against those who were found guilty of indulging in ill-informed rumours about COVID-19 vaccines under relevant provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 & Indian Penal Code 1960. Combating the challenge of vaccine hesitancy and anti-vax threat would be essential to attain the vaccination target in the first three phases in which 30 crore healthcare workers, frontline workers and old people above 50 years of age with comorbidities have been targeted for vaccination.

Globally, early studies indicate that an efficient vaccination programme has a strong correlation with a decline in new infections. A study from Israel’s healthcare firm Maccabi Health Services showed that new infections in people above the age of 60 years declined nearly 60% in Israel after 3 days of the second dose of vaccine. Israel has managed to vaccinate the maximum number of people proportional to the total targetted population in the world so far and the sharp decline in new cases in the country is an early indicator of the importance and necessity of efficient vaccination programme.

Developments On The Vaccine Front

Pfizer has said that it would pursue the request for India to approve its vaccine if the government commits to buying the shots. India’s drug regulator Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has responded insisting that Pfizer officials did not turn up to the meetings with the regulator.

CDSCO has also not accepted Pfizer’s request for approval without a small local trial in India to test for immunogenicity and safety. One of the concerns on vaccination is the effectiveness of the existing vaccines against new mutants of COVID-19. A laboratory study conducted by UK’s regulator had shown that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked against new COVID variants discovered in the UK and South Africa.

While is study is yet to published in a peer-reviewed journal, the indications offered hope as no significant impact due to mutation was found in the response of Pfizer vaccine to 16 different variants reported so far. Moderna has said that its vaccine offered protection against two new strains in the UK and South Africa. The company has stated plans to start human studies of a booster shot for the COVID-19 mutant from South Africa.



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