Maharashtra scare: Scale up testing, vaccination


The resurgence of the pandemic in Maharashtra, especially in Akola, Yavatmal and Amravati districts, is a worrying development. In response the government has imposed a lockdown in these three districts. Given how the lockdown strategy failed to contain cases to areas where surges were detected, the state government should instead train its focus on testing and vaccination capacity in these places.

Health expert Devi Shetty has flagged the need for ramping up vaccinations. He has suggested that India has the capacity to do 500 million vaccinations in 30 days. Such an escalation strategy is needed given the signs of fresh outbreaks in multiple states. Last week, WHO has signalled the capability of vaccinations to avert serious illnesses even where their efficacy in preventing infections fell. This is a good enough scenario, given the surge of a strain causing pneumonia in Amravati, which could overrun hospitals and increase mortality rates. 

Read also: Maharashtra sees two ‘unique’ Covid strains, 1 triggers pneumonia

With Serum Institute reportedly sitting on huge stocks and racing to liquidate them before expiry, the slow footedness in vaccination is surprising. Vaccination must be opened up to the private market without further delay given that 63% of India frequents private health facilities. Finally, RT-PCR testing should be scaled up, given the possibility that the rapid antigen tests are returning too many false negatives.

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