The Union health ministry in its new clinical management protocols said that the SARS CoV-2 virus is an airborne virus that mainly spreads through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. COVID-19 virus can also spread if a person touches an infected surface and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth, the revised guidelines released on Wednesday stated.
This, as India reported 2,08,921 COVID-19 infections, pushing the overall tally of cases to 2,71,57,795, according to Union health ministry data. COVID-19 deaths were also high with 4,157 fatalities reported in a 24-hour period, the data updated at 8 am showed. The toll from the virus climbed to 3,11,388.
A total of 22,17,320 tests, the highest in a day, were conducted on Tuesday taking the cumulative number so far in the country to 33,48,11,496, while the daily positivity declined to 9.42 percent, the ministry said. This is the second day in a row that the case positivity rate has remained below 10 percent, the ministry said. The weekly positivity rate has also declined to 11.45 percent.
The updated data showed that the number of active cases have further come down to 24,95,591, with a net decline of 91,191 in a span of 24 hours. The active cases now constituting 9.19 percent of the total infections.
Amid complaints of vaccine shortages across the country, the ministry said more than 1.77 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with states and Union territories, and they will receive one lakh more within the next three days.
The Centre has so far provided, both under the free of cost category and through the direct state procurement category, more than 22 crore vaccine doses (22,00,59,880) to states and UTs, it said.
Of this, the total consumption including wastages is 20,13,74,636 doses, the ministry said, citing data available at 8 am Wednesday.
Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh hit back at Centre
On Tuesdsay, the Centre claimed that despite urging states repeatedly to keep vaccine wastage below 1 percent, states such as Jharkhand (37.3 percent) and Chhattisgarh (30.2 percent) -- figures disputed by both the state governmens -- were reporting much higher wastage than the national average (6.3 percent ).
Jharkhand's nodal officer for COVID-19 vaccination A Dodde said, "It is wrong to project that the vaccine wastage percentage is as high as 37.3 percent whereas it is 4.65 percent, much below the national average of 6.3 percent.
"Jharkhand with its tough terrains, difficulties, geographical complexities and technical glitches has not been able to update data," he told PTI.
Chief minister Hemant Soren lashed out at the Centre over the inflated figures, saying how can one imagine that Jharkhand will allow its "suraksha kavach" (protective gear) to go waste?
Soren said the state govt had explained to the Centre that poor connectivity in forest areas and lack of network issues are behind slow updation of data. "However, the Centre seems hell-bent to project things in a poor light which is causing problem to poor states like Jharkhand. This is why the state had gone to the Supreme Court for allowing its platform for vaccination," Soren told PTI.
Rejecting the Centre's claim about high vaccine wastage, the Chhattisgarh government too said the wastage of COVID-19 shots is below one percent in the state, which has been performing well in all categories of the vaccination drive.
According to a release issued by the state public relations department, Chhattisgarh has grabbed the second spot in the country in vaccinating healthcare workers, while it is among the top performing states in inoculating frontline workers.
The release went on to negate a statement made by the Centre in a virtual meeting on 21 May about high vaccine wastage in Chhattisgarh. "The fact is that the percentage of wastage of the vaccines funded by the Centre is 0.81, while in the direct state procurement category, it is 0.63 percent," the release stated.
As per the release, principal secretary of the state's health department Dr Alok Shukla had conveyed the matter to the Centre's Health Secretary in a letter on 21 May and had requested him to update the data at their level, it said.
Shukla had informed the Centre that the state had received 68,40,210 vaccine doses from the Centre, of which, 61,67,632 shots were administered, while 55,608 were wasted, which is 0.81 percent, the release stated.
Apart from this, the state government had received 7,97,110 doses for the 18-44 age category, of which 6,66,101 had been administered, while 5,039 shots were wasted, which comes to 0.63 percent, it said.
'Book Ramdev for sedition'
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that yoga guru Ramdev be booked immediately under sedition charges for alleged misinformation campaign on vaccination and challenging government protocols for treatment of COVID-19.
The apex medical body has also served a defamation notice to Ramdev for his alleged disparaging remarks against allopathy and allopathic practitioners, demanding an apology from him within 15 days, failing which it said it will demand a compensation of Rs 1,000 crore from the yoga guru.
In its letter to Modi, the IMA said it was gratifying to note that only 0.06 percent of people who received both the doses of vaccine "got minimal" infection by coronavirus, and "very rarely" vaccinated people had a severe lung infection.
"It is well proven that by vaccination we save our people and country from catastrophic cascades of severe infection. At this juncture, painfully we bring to your kind notice, the video claiming 10,000 doctors have died in spite of taking both the doses of vaccine and lakhs of people have died due to allopathic medicine are circulating virally in the social media, as said by Mr Ramdev, owner of Patanjali products," the body said in its letter.
"We, the members of the modern medicine professionals submit; we follow the guidelines and protocols issued by the ministry of health through ICMR or the National Task Force in our treatment offered to millions of people coming to our hospitals. If someone is claiming allopathic medicine has killed people, it is an attempt to challenge the ministry which has issued the protocol for treatment to us," it stated.
Also on Wednesday, a study involving 69 healthcare workers at Delhi's Apollo Hospital, who tested positive for COVID-19 after being vaccinated, found that the B.1.617.2 variant was detected in 48 percent of their samples, according to reports. The B.1.617.2 variant has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The study was conducted on 69 health care workers who were infected after vaccination in the first 100 days of India's vaccination drive. All the workers had received the Covishield vaccine and 51 were fully vaccinated, while 18 had received only one dose of the vaccine, Indian Express reported.
Meanwhile, in the National Capital, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the manufacturers of Sputnik V have agreed to supply the Russian anti-COVID-19 vaccine to Delhi, but its quantity is yet to be decided. He also said that there were around 620 cases of black fungus or mucormycosis in the city, but there is a shortage of Amphotericin-B injections used in its treatment.
"Talks with the makers of Sputnik V are on. They will give us the vaccine, but the quantity is yet to be decided. Our officials and the representatives of the vaccine manufacturers met on Tuesday, too," Kejriwal told reporters.
Speaking at the launch of Delhi's first drive-through vaccination centre at Vegas Mall in Dwarka, he also said that vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer are both suitable for children and the Central Ggovernment should procure these jabs to vaccinate children.
He also said that a government-run drive-through vaccination centre will be launched at Chhatrasal on Saturday.
'Worst crisis in decades'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday described COVID-19 vaccines as "absolutely important to save lives and defeat the pandemic", noting that this "once-in-a-lifetime" crisis has brought tragedy and sufferings at doorsteps of many and caused huge economic impact.
Delivering the keynote address at a fucntion, the prmie minister said the pandemic has impacted every nation, adding that the planet will not be the same after this and the events in future will be remembered as either pre or post-COVID.
He, however, added that there have been many noteworthy developments which strengthen our strategy to fight it.
"Most importantly, we have the vaccine which is absolutely important to save lives and defeat the pandemic," Modi said, asserting that the emergence of jabs within a year of the COVID-19 outbreak shows the power of human determination and tenacity.
India is proud of its scientists for developing vaccines, he said, and also saluted healthcare and frontline workers for risking their lives to save others, he said.
Offering condolences to those who have suffered and lost near and dear ones in the pandemic, the prime minister said he grieved with them. In COVID-19, humanity has faced its worst crisis in decades and has not seen a pandemic like this for a century, he added.
His comments came amid several states complaining of a shortage of vaccines and also reports of vaccine hesitancy in a section of the population.
Lancet panels makes recommendations to Centre
A panel of experts made eight crucial recommendations for the Centre to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic including proposing a central system for procurement of free vaccines, transparent pricing policy and cash transfer by states to workers in the informal sector.
"We call on the central and state governments to act with urgency and in solidarity with each other and across sectors to address one of the greatest humanitarian crises facing the country since its independence," the authors wrote, saying that there is still time to stem the haemorrhage of life and the suffering caused by COVID-19 in India.
The panel which included 21 experts, including noted virologist Gagandeep Kang and Narayana Hrudalaya chairperson Devi Shetty, made the recommendations in an article published in the British medical journal Lancet.
Besides Kang, who is professor at the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore, and Shetty, the panel also includes Vikram Patel, professor, Harvard TH. Chan School of Public Health, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson and founder of Biocon Limited and Yamini Aiyar, chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. Aiyar is also the lead author of the article.
UP: 20 villagers get wrong second dose of vaccine
In a major goof-up, health workers in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharthnagar district administered COVAXIN to 20 villagers who had been given Covishield in the first dose. The incident has been reported from the primary health centre in Barhni where people from Audahi Kala and another village received COVAXIN shots on 14 May.
Chief Medical Officer Sandip Chaudhary on Wednesday said he has ordered an inquiry into the matter and assured stern action against those found responsible for this negligence. He said that no one has yet reported any health complaints and a health department team has already met them.
The incident came to light when one of the villagers, Ram Surat, brought to the notice of the health workers that he received different vaccines in the first and the second dose.
Accepting the shortcoming on the part of the health workers, the CMO said 20 people have been administered a mix-up of vaccines and the medical teams are keeping a close watch on them.
Govt looking into securing part of J&J vaccines
Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine to be manufactured in India by Biological E cannot be directly channelled to the domestic market and will have to be handed over entirely to the US pharma giant as agreed by the firms, but the government is looking at the possibility of securing a part of this production, sources said.
Hyderabad-based Biological E has, however, proposed to manufacture about 30 crore doses of its indigenous vaccine exclusively for the Indian market by December and has sought "funding support" from the government. Its vaccine candidate is currently in phase 1/2 clinical trial phase.
According to the sources, there are limited prospects of J&J exporting its vaccine from the US to other countries in the near future and the "entire production" at the BE facilities in India, beginning July/August, will be handed over to the pharma giant under a contract between the companies.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), along with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), has been asked to work on securing a part of the J&J vaccine to be manufactured by BE for the Indian market, the sources said.
The government is exploring all avenues to boost vaccine supply urgently to inoculate the billion-plus population amid a devastating second wave of COVID-19, and the Cabinet Secretary chaired two rounds of high-level meetings last week on the availability of the shots in the global as well as domestic markets.
With inputs from PTI