New Delhi: There has been no “signal of concern” about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured under the name Covishield by the Serum Institute of India, and inoculations will continue with “full vigour”, NITI Aayog’s Member (Health) Dr V.K. Paul said in Wednesday’s weekly Covid briefing.
In the last few days, several European countries have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots. While the European Medical Agency has said the benefits of the vaccine outweighs the risks, the World Health Organization said “it is normal for countries to signal potential adverse events”.
Elaborating India’s stand on the issue, Paul said: “India’s own group that looks at adverse effects is looking at this particular issue for the last few days. They are tracking the information that’s available to us in a very systematic manner, and I again assure you that we have no signal of concern in this regard.”
Paul said the government will remain on the lookout for any further information.
PM’s interaction with CMs
The briefing took place on the same day as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with chief ministers of various states and union territories, as the country faces a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases.
“For stopping this emerging ‘second peak’ of corona, the prime minister stressed the need to take quick and decisive steps… The prime minister noted the need for provision of micro containment zones. He stressed the need to be serious about ‘test, track and treat’ as we have been doing for the last one year,” a Press Information Bureau release said.
NITI Aayog’s Paul too highlighted several points that had been raised during the interaction. He said: “The pandemic is now more focused in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities. The earlier phase was much more intense in bigger cities, but now it seems… (to be) going closer to the rural areas.”
Paul added that PM Modi had stressed on the need to build testing and clinical care facilities in the smaller cities.
Another issue highlighted at the interaction was the wastage of vaccine doses. Health ministry data shows that the current rate of wastage in the country is at 6.5 per cent. States and union territories with the highest wastage are Telangana (17.6 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (11.6 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (9.4 per cent), Karnataka (6.9 per cent) and Jammu and Kashmir (6.6 per cent).
“The PM has also highlighted that the vaccination programme be hastened and more vaccination centres be opened, but he raised concern over the wastage of vaccine, which he said should be brought to a minimum,” Paul said.
‘Districts of concern’
Also at the briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan emphasised that the country was seeing a 43 per cent increase in new cases and 37 per cent increase in new deaths in the last two weeks.
“In 70 districts across 16 states, there has been more than 150 per cent increase in the number of cases in the last 15 days,” Bhushan said. Meanwhile, in 55 districts in 17 states, these numbers have increased anywhere from 100 to 150 per cent.
Most of these “districts of concern” are located in the western and northern parts of India.
Maharashtra continues to be the state contributing the most number of active cases, at 60 per cent of all the cases in India, and new deaths, at 45.4 per cent.
“The matter which is of concern is that the positivity rate of Maharashtra was about 11 per cent on 1 March, which has now increased to 16.4 per cent,” Bhushan said. The overall positivity rate in the country is 4.99 per cent.
Bhushan also noted the surge in the number of cases in other states and union territories like Punjab, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Karnataka.
“Our advice to states, especially Maharashtra, has been to increase the number of tests, specifically the number of RT-PCR tests,” he said, adding that the share of the gold-standard RT-PCR tests should be at least 70 per cent.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)