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.
“Approximately 10,000 hospitals are being used for administering vaccines in a day. Out of these, 2,000 hospitals are private. This shows how essential is the private sector… In the coming days, more private sector hospitals will be utilised to increase the vaccination coverage and speed,” he said.
Teams sent to States
Stating that the Ministry has sent Central teams to some States which have shown a surge in COVID-19 cases recently, Mr. Bhushan said these teams will analyse the reasons for the spike in cases.
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.
He added that the situation is being constantly monitored and that data will be shared as further scientific evidence emerges.
The statement comes amidst surge in COVID cases, with Maharashtra and Kerala reporting 75% of the active COVID cases.
“Other states including Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu-Kashmir are also a cause for worry and our teams has been dispatched to study and understand the cause for the surge,’’ said Mr. Bhushan at the conference.
Cautioning that the virus is still very much around and that it continues to surprise Dr. Paul said, “People should not abandon COVID appropriate behaviour as we are still vulnerable. The surge in the COVID cases are a warning signal to us.”
Meanwhile, the cumulative number of vaccine doses administered to healthcare and frontline workers has crossed 1.19 crore on Tuesday as per data released by the Ministry. It added that a total of 1,19,07,392 vaccine doses have been given through 2,53,434 sessions, as per the provisional report till 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
“These include 64,71,047 health care workers (HCW) who have taken the first dose and 13,21,635 HCWs who have taken the second, along with 41,14,710 frontline workers (FLW) (1st dose).”