Same dose to be administered as a precautionary dose: Ministry of Health

The same dose will be used as a precautionary dose for health care, front-line workers and the elderly with co-morbidities, the Health Ministry clarified at the press conference here on Wednesday. The precautionary doses will be administered to the eligible population from January 10.

“So those who took Covaxin as the primary vaccination will receive Covaxin and those who received Covishield will receive Covishield as the third dose,” said VK Paul, NITI Aayog, Member-Health. He further added that as more and more scientific evidence emerges on the heterologous approach, the decision will be made in the future on the mixing of vaccines.

Also read: Covid-19 cases increase by 55% in 24 hours, 3 to 7% require hospitalization in large metros

India has reported a more than 6.3x increase in Covid cases over the past eight days, the health ministry said. On Wednesday, India reported a 55% rise in Covid cases to 58,097 with 534 victims. Lav Agarwal, co-secretary at the Ministry of Health, said a sharp increase in Covid positivity had been observed, rising from 0.79% on December 29, 2021 to 5.03% on January 5, 2022. He said highlighted six states including Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which have more than 10,000 active cases in a single day.

According to the ministry, 28 districts nationwide are reporting more than 10 percent weekly positivity. He further pointed out that Omicron is the predominant strain driving the upsurge in Covid cases. West Bengal has the highest weekly positivity rate.

Meanwhile, Agarwal said 25.2 lakh cases were reported globally on January 4, the highest since the start of the pandemic. Almost 65% of cases in the week ending January 4 were recorded in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.

“4.70 lakh cases of Omicron have been reported so far from 139 countries. There have been 108 confirmed deaths so far. Most cases have been reported in the UK, Denmark and the US,” Agarwal noted.

He further stated that hospitalization cases are relatively less in the Omicron-led surge compared to the previous surge in all countries. “In the United States, in a previous wave, 2.5 lakh cases were reported and 1.33 lakh people were hospitalized, now that at the peak about 3.94 lakh cases are recorded, so only 90 000 cases require hospitalization,” Agarwal added. Likewise, in the UK, France and Denmark, there were fewer hospitalizations, he said. He said India needed to analyze the data to predict the trend. He informed that there are about 2,1354 cases of Omicron in the country.

Agarwal said vaccination and testing are still relevant to curb the spread of Omicron. He added that states have been urged to step up surveillance to track infections.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the test kit for Omicron manufactured by Tata Medical and Diagnostics, the health ministry said. Rapid home tests and rapid antigen tests will play a major role in the diagnosis of infection.

Immunization of children

There are 7.4 million children in the 15-18 age group. More than one million teenagers in this group received their first dose. So far, more than 1.24 million children have received their first dose of the vaccine. “We estimate that one in six children has been vaccinated in this set. We hope this will accelerate. The availability of vaccines is not a problem. We will be able to vaccinate this group,” Paul said.

Biological E’s Corbevax is also one of the options India has for its campaign to vaccinate the adult population. This vaccine is in trial for pediatric groups and I also believe that they will submit a trial application in addition or that this application is pending. Second, if such stock has become available, it will also be available for export at a time when India will not need it.

Important masking and social distancing

“In an enclosed space, it is important to wear a mask. However, in an open space, if you are alone, you cannot carry it. The use of a mask is necessary whenever there is home isolation,” said Balram Bhargava, chief executive of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

“In home care, patients must wear a triple-layer medical mask. For caregivers too, it should be a triple layer mask. N95 masks can also be considered. In general situations, any mask can be used,” Paul said.

In accordance with the revised home isolation guidelines for mild or asymptomatic patients, the patient will be discharged after at least seven days after testing positive and free of fever for 3 consecutive days. There is no need to retest after the end of the home isolation period. Asymptomatic contacts of infected people do not need to undergo a Covid test and monitor their health in home quarantine.

On molnupiravir

Bhargava said
Activity area that the antiviral drug Molnupiravir which was recently approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) is not part of the Covid treatment protocol.

He said: “The US FDA approved it based on only 1,433 patients with a 3% reduction in moderate disease, when given in mild cases. However, we must remember that this drug has major safety issues as it can cause teratogenicity, mutagenicity and it can also damage cartilage. It can also damage the muscles. More contraception should be given for three months, male or female if given, as childbirth could be problematic with teratogenic influences”. He added that for these reasons he was not included in the treatment of the national task force.

“The World Health Organization has not included it. The UK has not included it at this time. We are still concerned about pregnancy, breastfeeding, children, soft tissue injuries , infection history of the reproductive age group, vaccination and all those issues. Whatever the benefit in these 1433 patients, it was unvaccinated individuals and only 3% had mild to moderate disease. So , as of now, the current recommendations are that this is not part of the treatment of the national task force and we have debated it twice and we will have a more in-depth debate on the possibility,” Bhargava said.

Maria J. Book