94L recovered: Health Sec Bhushan talks vaccine, AEFI system for post-Covid immunisation

New Delhi: More than 94 lakh patients have recovered from Covid-19 in the country, while presently there are only about 3.4 lakh active cases and the number is declining further. More than 15.55 crore tests have been conducted so far, while cumulative positivity rate is 6.37% and the average daily positivity rate during the last week was 3% in the country. The recovery rate at 95.12% is amongst the highest in the world. With 7,178 cases per million population, India still figures among the lowest in the world. Even in terms of deaths which have occurred, India is amongst the lowest at 104 deaths per million population. In terms of case fatality rate also, India at 1.45% figures below the global average of 2.26%. This information was stated by Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary according to a press communication from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in course of a media briefing on the action taken by the Government, preparedness and updates on Covid-19, at the National Media Centre in New Delhi on Tuesday, 15th December.

The Health Secretary also said that the five states with the highest average number of cases in a week-on-week basis are Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Delhi.

Briefing about the latest developments in plans and preparations for vaccination, Health Secretary Bhushan said all of the 36 states and UTs have concluded meetings of State Steering Committee as well as State Task Force. 633 districts have already concluded meetings of District Task Force.  Further, 23 Union Ministries and Departments under the Centre & States have been identified and assigned roles concerning planning, implementation, social mobilisation, and awareness generation for the vaccine-roll out as per the Health Ministry press communication.

The Health Secretary revealed that detailed instructions on Infection Prevention and Control Practices during vaccination have been issued to remain prepared to handle Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) that may crop up post-vaccination. For this, states have been told to identify at least one AEFI Management Centre in each block. It can be a Primary Health Centre, Community Health Centre, District Hospital, private health facilities or any other fixed health facility with medical officers and para-medical staff. AEFI reporting will be done through Co-WIN. Every session site will be linked to designated AEFI Management Centres, stated the Health Secretary.

The Health Secretary further said:

  • Training modules for medical officers, vaccinator officers/alternative vaccinator officers, cold chain handlers, supervisors, data managers, ASHA coordinators etc. have been finalised.
  • Physical training as well as training on virtual/online platforms have started.
  • National and State Training of Trainers (ToTs) workshops have been completed.
  • Guidelines have been issued for estimation of electrical and non-electrical cold chain equipment and their strengthening.
  • Guidelines have been issued for management of cold chain at last cold chain points and session sites.
  • 29,000 cold chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar refrigerators will be used.

Speaking about AEFI, Dr. VK Paul said, apart from the importance being given at Government level on tackling, saving, reporting, and taking action in such cases, the vaccine manufacturers conduct a Phase IV Clinical Trial or Post-Marketing Surveillance where they monitor and track the effects of the vaccine systematically after it has been passed. He further urged, “If a vaccine or two comes after obtaining Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA), you should have complete faith in the fact that the vaccine is scientifically proven, matches global standards, and it is safe and effective.”

Replying to a media query about AEFI for Covid-19 vaccine, Dr. Paul said, “This is an adult vaccine. Our AEFI system was targeted to children and women and those vaccinations take place in a certain way, starting with hospitals and then into the communities. But when we deal with adults, certain practical aspects have to be tackled. Secondly, these vaccinations are in multiple new platforms that bring in complexity. Further, if an EUA is given, it calls for more responsibility. Lastly, there are always new aspects, side-effects, situations that have to be kept in mind. Above all, a large number of beneficiaries and target-groups are to be tackled over a short period of time in a mission-mode. Therefore, there is a need to build on the standard principles of AEFI and make it specific to the fuller dimension of the requirements of this particular set of vaccines.”

In reply to a media query on Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) seeking more information from SII, Bharat Biotech, and Pfizer for grant of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to them, Health Secretary Bhushan replied that this procedure will not negatively impact the time-line for the roll-out of the vaccine. Dr. Paul replied, “This situation was factored-in from before as it is EUA. There should be more than reasonable satisfaction about the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness of the vaccine.”

In reply to a media query on reports of infections linked with Covid-19 that is leading to loss of eyesight, Dr. VK Paul said, while Covid-19 can be a mild disease by itself, it can be without any symptom or even be a serious disease with serious complications like this which have not occurred before

According to the Health Ministry, in a reply to another media query, Secretary Bhushan stated that State Governments have been allowed to form vaccination session sites even at units where the army or paramilitary is posted.

Looking at the present global scenario, Dr. Paul cautioned that a second or third peak may occur in India, though it is impossible to do a definite prediction. He urged everyone to remain careful, follow the preventive steps and not take the improved situation in India as granted. “An overwhelming proportion of our people, our citizens are still very very susceptible to this virus,” he said. He specially mentioned that Uttarakhand, Nagaland, and Himachal Pradesh have a high proportion of cases that need to be controlled.

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The ID Staff

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