Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccination for the older population (over 50 years) is expected to start soon and that the immunisation programme would see greater private sector participation.
Speaking at a Health Ministry press conference, Mr. Bhushan said more private hospitals will be utilised to increase the speed and coverage of COVID-19 vaccination in the coming days.
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‘Cannot establish direct relation between recent surge in cases with detection of mutant virus strains’
NITI Aayog’s member (health) V.K. Paul said there was no current scientific data available to establish a direct relation between the recent surge in cases in Maharashtra and other States with the mutant virus strains N440K and E484Q detected in the country. Dr. Paul said besides the U.K. strain (187 cases), South Africa strain (6) cases and Brazil strain (1 case), India has also found cases with N440K and E484Q. “The variants have been now detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana,” he added.
Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR, said the two strains have been detected in other countries too and are not specific to India.
“Moreover, they have been found earlier in some States in India. The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July 2020. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam. The current upsurge in Maharashtra cannot be attributed to the currently discussed point mutations,” he said.
The statement comes amidst surge in COVID cases, with Maharashtra and Kerala reporting 75% of the active COVID cases.