Experts seek faster pace of COVID-19 vaccination

They also highlight the need to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour and keep complacency at bay.

August 24, 2021 05:11 pm | Updated 10:32 pm IST - NEW DELHI

VIJAYAWADA (ANDHRA PRADESH). 23/08/2021. Health staff vaccinating people above 18 years at Covid vaccination centre in Vijayawada on Monday.. Photo: RAJU V / The Hindu.

VIJAYAWADA (ANDHRA PRADESH). 23/08/2021. Health staff vaccinating people above 18 years at Covid vaccination centre in Vijayawada on Monday.. Photo: RAJU V / The Hindu.

The complacency in people’s behaviour early this year was one of the major reasons for the severe second COVID-19 wave, says experts. Also, with only 15 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated so far, “if the infection spreads uncontrollably, it will give the virus an opportunity to mutate more. These mutations can change its characteristics— it can become less or more transmissible or virulent,” cautioned Gitanjali Batmanabane , director, AIIMS, Bhubaneswar.

The only way to contain the virus’s spread was by following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour at all times, Dr. Batmanabane added.

Doctors note that the country has just recovered from the severe second wave and life and livelihoods are gradually becoming normal.

Dr. Ramji Singh, director, AIIMS, Kalyani, West Bengal, said, “Any carelessness during the coming festivals or during the opening up may now lead to a sudden surge in the number of cases. Though the daily positivity rate has been less than 3% for the last 23 days, the upcoming festivals may help the virus to surge, jeopardising our gain in controlling the pandemic’’.

The warning assumes greater importance given that even as per government figures, a majority of the population, which is not completely vaccinated, continues to be vulnerable to any possible third wave.

“India has provided one COVID vaccination dose to 45.6 Cr i.e. 49% of the adult population of about 94 Cr and two doses 13.28 Cr i.e. 14% of the adult population,’’ NITI Aayog, member (Health) Dr. V.K. Paul told The Hindu .

He had indicated that the government aims to vaccinate all Indians by the end of this year.

‘Need to pick up pace’

Dr. Gagandeep Kang, leading virologist and professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, spoke about need for vaccination to pick up pace and offer a protective cover to the population.

She said: “We should be trying to get as high as possible as fast as possible. Unfortunately with supply being limiting, we can only move at the pace which supply dictates.

“But within supply, we need to prioritize vulnerable groups and we have not been monitoring coverage by priority groups beyond healthcare and frontline workers. I am told that by last week only 60% of above 60 years have been reached with one dose of vaccine and 30% with two doses and that is really low given that we started to vaccinate them on March 1st.

“Also, pregnant women need coverage as priority group 2, according to the World Health Organisation [WHO]. I think we are already seeing some impact of the vaccines, but we need better tracking. We need at least 75% coverage in priority groups with both doses before we move to new groups.’’

Cumulative coverage

As per the Health Ministry figures released on Tuesday, the country’s cumulative vaccination coverage stood at over 58.89 crore (58,89,97,805) as per provisional reports till 7 a.m. on Tuesday. This had been achieved through 65,03,493 sessions, according to the Ministry.

Giving a break-up of the vaccination so far (till 8 a.m. on Tuesday), it stated that the break-up of the cumulative figure among healthcare workers stood at 1,03,53,692 (who got their first dose), while 82,32,742 got their second dose. In the next most vulnerable population of over 60 year, 8,36,87,351 got their first and 1,03,53,692 the second dose. In the 45-49 age group, 12,34,70,622 got the first dose and 4,93,70,668 the second one.

The Ministry noted that more than 57.15 crore (57,15,22,580) doses have been provided to the States and Union Territories so far through the Central government’s free of cost channel and through direct State procurement category. Further, 1,00,84,700 doses were in the pipeline. “More than 3.29 Cr (3,29,58,715) balance and unutilized COVID vaccine doses are still available with the stakeholders to be administered.’’ it added.

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