New Delhi: The government is actively discussing whether plasma therapy should be removed from the list of treatment options for Covid-19 patients under the national guidelines for management of Covid.
This comes after multiple international trials and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which conducted the largest trial in the world, concluded that infusing blood plasma from a recovered patient showed no significant benefits on the eventual outcome of a Covid patient.
Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR and secretary, health research, Tuesday said, “We have done the largest trial on plasma therapy in the world with 464 patients across 39 hospitals and with more than 350 authors. It has now been accepted in BMJ (the British Medical Journal) and we have received proof, it will appear very soon … more than 10 pages of hardcore science talking about the role of plasma in Covid.”
Bhargava, who was replying to a question from ThePrint at a press conference, further said, “We have discussed this in the national task force and are discussing further now with the joint monitoring group that this (plasma therapy) may be deleted from the national guidelines. That is the discussions ongoing and more or less we are reaching towards that.”
Plasma therapy is “not associated with reduction in mortality or progression to severe COVID-19”, the ICMR study, called PLACID, had concluded.
The US Food and Drug Administration had in August put its emergency authorisation for plasma therapy on hold after emerging data on the treatment was not robust enough to justify its continuation.
Bhargava added that discussions are also currently ongoing about the recent findings of the WHO’s Solidarity trial on the lack of efficacy of drugs like remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine in treating Covid. However, he pointed out that the data is only interim and the findings are yet to be peer reviewed.
Digital health ID not mandatory for vaccination
On the country’s Covid vaccination programme, top sources in the government told ThePrint that India currently has the resources to vaccinate about three crore people.
“We have done rough calculations … there are 70 lakh doctors in the country. Let’s round that up to a crore. There are another two crore healthcare workers. These people we can vaccinate right now … we have the cold chain, the syringes, everything that is needed to vaccinate them,” said a senior government official.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said digital health IDs will be used to systematically carry out the vaccination process. However, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan Tuesday clarified that the health ID will not be mandatory for a person to receive a Covid vaccine. The health IDs, being set up under the National Digital Health Mission, is still in nascent stages. Pilots were rolled out in some Union Territories on 15 August.
“National Digital Health Mission, as it exists today, does not make digital health ID mandatory to receive service under the digital ecosystem. To say it would become mandatory for vaccination is not the right interpretation. (But) health ID would be utilised,” Bhushan said.
“In cases where the beneficiary does not have one, there are multiple IDs which can be utilised, almost like a electoral scenario where multiple IDs are prescribed beforehand so that nobody is deprived of their voting right on the day of elections or on the day of vaccinations,” he added.
India’s current vaccination network and experience is of vaccinating the annual birth cohort of 2.5 crore children under the universal immunisation programme. The country already has 28,000 cold storages and a digital platform for procurement, storage and transport of vaccines.
No shortage of oxygen in the country
At the press briefing, Health Secretary Bhushan also gave a detailed presentation on the status of oxygen in the country.
“We are in an extremely comfortable position. At no point in the last 10 months was there a shortage of oxygen in the country nor is there paucity now.”
He said that even during the 9-15 September week when the average consumption of medical oxygen was at its highest of 2,791 metric tonnes, India had a surplus stock of 14,932 metric tonnes at the end of the week.
The number of oxygen supported beds, intensive care beds and hospital beds in the country have gone up to 2,65,046, 77,136 and 39,527 respectively. In April, the count stood at 57,924, 23,815 and 11,993 respectively.
“We have also taken many other steps … the home ministry has allowed free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles at all times, we have issued SOPs for rational use of oxygen, a central control room has been set up for the purpose and we are also building additional infrastructure across the country so that we are prepared for any future surge also,” Bhushan said.
Daily oxygen production capacity rose to 6,862 MT in September from 5,913 MT in April. It is expected to further increase to 7,191 MT by October end.
Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala account for 50% cases
India has shown a significant downturn in daily positives with the daily cases dipping below the 50,000 mark for the first time in 84 days Tuesday. However three states — Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala — accounted for 49.5 per cent of all active cases in the country.
Among the worst-affected districts in these states are Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Ernakulam, Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Mysuru and Tumkuru.