Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday announced said India is at the cusp of authorizing the first set of Covid-19 vaccines and expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations, estimated to be around 30 crore.
The minister made the announcement while chairing the 22nd meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on Covid-19 through a video-conference as India crossed the 1 crore infection mark.
He was joined virtually by external affairs minister S Jaishankar, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, MoS for health and family welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS home affairs Nityanand Rai, Member (Health) NITI Aayog Vinod K Paul, and advisers to the Prime Minister Amarjeet Sinha and Bhaskar Khulbe.
Reiterating his concern and appeal to diligently maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour, the health minister said people should follow coronavirus guidelines even at a time "when the country is at the cusp of authorizing the first set of vaccines".
He also expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 30 crore. Expressing deep gratitude to all Covid warriors, who have been steadfast in their duty without any fatigue throughout the pandemic which is in its 12th month, Vardhan informed his colleagues of the progress made by the country's public health system against the pandemic and the encouraging results so far.
The minister said that India's Covid-19 pandemic growth has dropped to 2 per cent and the case fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world at 1.45 per cent. "India's recovery rate has peaked to 95.46 per cent, while the strategy of testing 1 million samples has decreased the cumulative positivity rate to 6.25 per cent," he added.
NCDC director Sujeet K Singh presented a detailed report on how the data driven graded government policies have helped India achieve a significant control over the pandemic. He showed figures related to the number of cases, deaths, growth rates and how they compared favourably to the rest of the world which is witnessing a meteoric rise in these parameters.
Singh presented a granular analysis of the trajectory of the pandemic in each state pointing out critical parameters like positivity, RAT and RT-PCR per cent breakup, concentration of cases in particular districts and other trends like fatality, and fatality within 48 and 72 hours of hospitalisation. He also presented data on the total dedicated Covid-19 facilities in the country.
Through a detailed presentation, NITI Aayog member Paul apprised the GoM on three critical aspects of vaccination; the process of pre-clinical and clinical trial of all vaccines, the details of the six vaccine candidates undergoing trial in India (in terms of composition, manufacturers and technical partners, numbers of doses, conditions for storage and efficacy) and the composition of target populations in India, in terms of age, occupation and co-morbidities and how they compare with other countries and WHO's recommendations.
He briefed the GoM about requests for vaccines received by the Ministry of External Affairs from 12 other countries.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted the importance of Health Seeking Behaviour among the population as a key driver in checking fatality. Explaining the paradox of some states and Union Territories reporting very high cases but minimal fatalities while others reporting low cases but comparatively high fatalities, Paul said that this phenomenon results from people not coming forward for testing even if they are symptomatic in the second category of states.