Indian Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has announced that India is about to authorise the first set of Covid-19 vaccines and that there is a need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 300 million (30 crore).
He made the announcement while chairing the 22nd meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on Covid-19 through a video-conference as India crossed the one crore infection mark.
He was virtually joined by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep S. Puri, Minister of State Health & Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai, Member (Health) NITI Aayog Vinod K. Paul, Advisers to the Prime Minister Amarjeet Sinha and Bhaskar Khulbe.
Reiterating his concern and appeal to diligently maintain a Covid appropriate behaviour, the Minister said that we should follow coronavirus guidelines even at a time “when the country is at the cusp of authorizing the first set of vaccines”.
Vardhan also informed the meeting that India’s Covid-19 pandemic growth has dropped to 2 per cent and the case fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world at 1.45 per cent.
“India’s Recovery Rate has peaked to 95.46 per cent, while the strategy of testing 1 million samples has decreased the Cumulative Positivity Rate to 6.25 per cent,” he added.
Observing the fact that October and November were festival season in the country, Vardhan said no new surge of cases was observed in this period due to comprehensive testing, tracking and treatment policy implemented on the ground.
Sujeet K. Singh, Director (NCDC), presented a detailed report on how the data driven graded government policies have helped India achieve a significant control over the pandemic.
Singh presented a granular analysis of the trajectory of the pandemic in each state pointing out critical parameters like positivity, RAT and RT-PCR per cent breakup, concentration of cases in particular districts and other trends like fatality, and fatality within 48 and 72 hours of hospitalisation.
Through a detailed presentation, NITI Aayog member Paul apprised the GoM on three critical aspects of vaccination; the process of pre-clinical and clinical trial of all vaccines, the details of the six vaccine candidates undergoing trial in India (in terms of composition, manufacturers and technical partners, numbers of doses, conditions for storage and efficacy) and the composition of target populations in India, in terms of age, occupation and co-morbidities and how they compare with other countries and WHO’s recommendations.
He briefed the GoM about requests for vaccines received by the Ministry of External Affairs from 12 other countries.
Explaining the paradox of some states and Union Territories reporting very high cases but minimal fatalities while others reporting low cases but comparatively high fatalities, Paul said that this phenomenon results from people not coming forward for testing even if they are symptomatic in the second category of states.