The Central Government on Tuesday expressed concern over the "vaccine hesitancy" among healthcare workers even as the number of those inoculated Tuesday crossed 4.5 lakh while the country reported 137 deaths, the lowest in around eight months.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that India recorded the highest number of first day vaccinations for COVID-19 immunisation, yet some of those selected for the first-stage of immunisation drive opted out on Tuesday as well while some demanded the option to choose the vaccine.
According to Centre, of the total people vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, 0.18 percent reported adverse events following immunisation, while 0.002 percent had to be hospitalised which is fairly low. According to the health ministry, there were 580 reports of severe events while two persons " a 52-year-old in Moradabad and a 42-year-old in Karnataka " have reportedly died due to cardiopulmonary disease after getting their shots. The deaths have not been linked to the vaccines till now.
Addressing a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) VK Paul said concerns about adverse effects and serious problems post immunisation as of now seem to be unfounded, negligible, insignificant and stressed that both the vaccines are safe.
In Delhi, seeing a low turnout of healthcare workers on the first two days of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Tuesday said the exercise is voluntary and a matter of "personal decision" for people whether to get a shot or not, but all efforts are being made to boost their confidence.
India reported 10,064 new covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest single-day spike in seven months. Out of the total cases, active cases further dropped to 2 lakh while recoveries went up to over 1.02 crore.
Upsetting if health workers refuse vaccination, says Centre
The government on Tuesday expressed concern about "vaccine hesitancy" among healthcare workers, with NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul saying that doctors, nurses and other frontline workers should fulfil their "social responsibility" by getting inoculated.
"A lot of efforts have gone into making the vaccines. If our healthcare workers, especially doctors and nurses are declining it (vaccination), then it's very upsetting. We never know what form this pandemic could take, how big it could get, so please get vaccinated," Paul was quoted by NDTV as saying.
The NITI Aayog official also said the concerns pertaining to the coronavirus vaccines having "adverse effects and serious problems seem to be unfounded and insignificant". He reassured that the two vaccines " Serum Institute's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin " are safe.
"If there is an adverse effect, there are all preparations in place. But let me assure you that adverse events are not even taking place to a significant scale. The hesitancy about adverse effects among healthcare workers needs to end. This vaccine hesitancy needs to end," Paul added.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also presented data of vaccinations done in other countries. He said India inoculated 2,07,229 people on the first day, while the United States vaccinated 79,458 beneficiaries. He went on to provide data on vaccinations done on the first day in the United Kingdom (19,700) and France (73).
Vaccination is personal decision: Satyender Jain
Amid a low turnout of healthcare workers on the first two days of the coronavirus vaccination drive, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain has said the exercise is voluntary and that the government cannot force anyone.
Nearly 3,600 healthcare workers were inoculated in Delhi on Monday, a further dip in the figures compared to that on the opening day of the immunisation drive, with sources saying just eight medical staff got the jabs at AIIMS.
"The target of the day in Delhi was 8,136, and 3,598 got vaccinated, which is 44 percent of the targeted figure," he told reporters.
Jain reiterated that this is a voluntary exercise and people are making their own decisions, as it's the initial phase.
Asked if statements made by a few political leaders raising doubts over its efficacy and safety, could be a factor, he said, "No. Going for vaccination is a personal decision, and has nothing to do with what political statements have been made about it."
The Delhi government has set up 81 immunisation centres across the city as part of the nationwide mega vaccination drive.
The sharp fall had come after one severe and 50 minor cases of AEFI (adverse events following immunisation) were reported on Saturday.
India announces supply of vaccines to six countries
India on Tuesday announced that it will supply COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from Wednesday. The Ministry of External Affairs said India will supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner keeping in view the domestic requirements.
It said India is awaiting confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius for the supply of the vaccines. In a statement, the MEA said India has received several requests for the supply of Indian-manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries.
"In response to these requests, and in keeping with India's stated commitment to using India's vaccine production and delivery capacity to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from 20 January," it said. "In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances," it added.
India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country. While Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, the Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.
COVID-19 cases shoot up in Lakshadweep islands
The number of COVID-19 cases soared to 14 in Lakshadweep islands, which remained insulated from the attack of deadly virus till Monday, since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country nearly a year ago.
A day after the first coronavirus case was reported in the islands, official sources said 13 people, who were the patient's primary contacts, tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, taking the test positivity rate to 42.4 percent.
The man belonging to the India Reserve Battalion (IRB), had left for Kavaratti by ship from Kochi on 3 January and tested positive on Monday, official sources said. He had reached the islands on 4 January. Sources said his 31 primary contacts were traced and tested of which 13 were infected.
All of the positive people belonged to IRB, they said. While four of them are having symptoms, the remaining are asymptomatic. The authorities have started tracing and isolating their primary and secondary contacts.
Till Monday, the islands had not reported a single positive COVID-19 case. Taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus, the administration had directed all those who had come in contact with him to go on quarantine, they said.
According to sources, risk communication activities started and disinfection process are on. The administration also suspended all the inter-island movements, including ships from Tuesday.
'Those with fever, allergies shouldn't take Covaxin', says Bharat Biotech
Bharat Biotech's fact sheet on COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, has advised pregnant or breastfeeding women, besides people with high fever or bleeding disorders, not to take the vaccine.
The vaccine maker in the fact sheet on Covaxin, posted in its website, said the clinical efficacy of the vaccine is yet to be established and is being studied in Phase 3 clinical trials, and hence, it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean other precautions related to COVID-19 need not be followed.
"You should not get Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin if you have any history of allergies. Have a high fever. Have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner. Immune compromised or are medicine that affects your immune system. Are pregnant. Are breastfeeding. Have received another COVID-19 vaccine. Any other serious health-related issues, as determined by the vaccinator/ Officer supervising vaccination," the fact sheet said.
The fact sheet also asked people to inform the vaccinator or a supervising official about their medical condition before taking the vaccine. Bharat Biotech said in an ongoing clinical trial Covaxin has been shown to generate immunity following two doses given four weeks apart.
Centre issues Letter of Comfort to Bharat Biotech for 45 lakh doses of Covaxin
Bharat Biotech has secured a fresh Letter of Comfort from the Centre for another 45 lakh doses of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, sources said on Tuesday.
Out of those 45 lakh doses, the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker will be supplying over eight lakh doses of Covaxin to some of the friendly countries such as Mauritius, Philippines and Myanmar, free of cost as a goodwill gesture. They also said the company will be dispatching 20 lakh doses of the earlier order in a couple of days, from Hyderabad.
"The company was given a fresh letter of comfort recently for supplying another 45 lakh doses of Covaxin. The doses will be dispatched as and when the government places orders with the company," sources told PTI.
After having received the government purchase order for 55 lakh doses, Bharat Biotech shipped the first batch of vaccines (each vial containing 20 doses) to Gannavaram (Vijayawada), Guwahati, Patna, Delhi, Kurukshetra, Bangalore, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Chennai and Lucknow, it said.
Bharat Biotech said it has also donated 16.5 lakh doses to the Government of India.
India reported the lowest number of daily coronavirus infections in over seven months with 10,064 new cases, which took the caseload to 1,05,81,837, said the Union health ministry on Tuesday.
The country's COVID-19 toll increased to 1,52,556 as 137 fatalities, the lowest in around eight months, were recorded in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The number of people who have recuperated from the novel coronavirus surged to 1,02,28,753, pushing the national COVID-19 recovery rate to 96.66 percent, while the case fatality rate stands at 1.44 percent.
The 137 new fatalities include 35 from Maharashtra, 17 from Kerala, 10 from West Bengal, nine from Karnataka, and eight each from Delhi and Tamil Nadu.
A total of 1,52,556 deaths have been reported so far in the country, including 50,473 from Maharashtra followed by 12,272 from Tamil Nadu, 12,175 from Karnataka,10,754 from Delhi, 10,063 from West Bengal,8,580 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,141 from Andhra Pradesh and 5,509 from Punjab.
The health ministry stressed that more than 70 percent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.
With input from PTI