Covid-19 vaccination for elderly soon, says ministry

COVID-19 vaccination for the older population (over 50 years) is expected to start soon, according to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. The immunisation programme would see greater private sector participation, he added..

More private hospitals will be utilised to increase the speed and coverage of COVID-19 vaccination in the coming days, Bhushan said while addressing a Health Ministry press conference. “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.

Stating that the Ministry has sent Central teams to some States which have shown a surge in COVID-19 cases recently, Bhushan said these teams will analyse the reasons for the spike in cases.

NITI Aayog’s member (health) VK Paul, meanwhile, 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 pointed out.

India’s coronavirus tally surged to 1,10,16,434, while the active caseload fell below the 1.5-lakh mark, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, India’s daily positivity rate remains below 3 per cent, the ministry said. The death toll due to the novel coronavirus infection stands at 1,56,463 and 1,07,12,665 people have so far been cured and discharged. Since the country saw a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in the recent past, the worst-hit states are Kerala and Maharashtra.

The government said that two variants of Covid-19 were detected in these two states, however, there is no reason to believe presently that they are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states. One of the two variants has also been detected in Telangana. Follow for LIVE updates on the coronavirus situation in India.