After high coverage of primary COVID vaccination, precautionary dose uptake stands at 27%

Health Ministry says Omicron and its sub-lineages continue to be the predominant variants

March 23, 2023 03:13 pm | Updated March 24, 2023 07:52 am IST - New Delhi

A healthcare worker collecting throat swab sample of a man in New Delhi. File

A healthcare worker collecting throat swab sample of a man in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Despite the high coverage of primary COVID vaccination (97%) and second dose (90%), India’s precautionary dose uptake stands at 27% (as on March 23, 2023), according to data released by the Union Health Ministry. India has been currently registering a rise in new COVID cases and now contributes to 1% of the global surge tally that has the U.S. (19.2%), Russia (12.6%), China (8.3%) in the lead.

The Union Health Ministry maintained that at present Omicron and its sub-lineages continue to be the predominant variants with no evidence of an increase in hospitalisation and/or mortality which has been reported.

“All currently circulating variants are sub-variants of Omicron,’‘ said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. He added that according to experts, as the virus becomes endemic, it generates a large number of variants. 

“Since the emergence of Omicron in 2021, close to 1,000 lineages have been assigned, which include approximately 100 recombinant variants. Most of the assigned variants have very little or no significant impact on the functional attribute of the virus like increased transmissibility, disease severity or immune escape etc. Only a few of the variants/sub-variants are designated as Variant of Concern, Variant of Interest [VOI], or SUM [subvariant under monitoring] based on scientific evidence on their transmissibility, disease severity or immune escape properties. XBB.1.5 or XBB.1.16 are VOIs which are under intense scientific scrutiny, but not cause of immediate concern,’‘ said Mr. Bhushan.

Meanwhile, in India, XBB.1.16 was found in Maharashtra (105) (Pune, Thane, Mumbai, Amravati, Nandurbar, Aurangabad, Sangli, Ahmednagar); Telangana (93) (Adilabad, Asifabad); Karnataka (57) (Shivamogga, Bengaluru Urban, Chitradurga, Mysuru, Davanagere, Kalaburagi, Ballari); Gujarat (54) (Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot) and Delhi (19).

Advisory to States

Stating that Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are among the areas seeing rise in cases, the Health Ministry issued a detailed advisory earlier this month regarding required measures for management of COVID-19. States have been advised to continue focus on the 5-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and COVID-appropriate behaviour, enhance lab surveillance and testing of all Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases, ramping up of whole genome sequencing of positive samples and follow the Union Health Ministry guidelines for management and vaccination of seasonal influenza cases.

It has also asked States to ensure availability of required drugs and logistics for influenza and COVID-19 across health facilities and ensure availability of sufficient designated beds and health workers across the States.

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