The Union health ministry on Sunday said 2.24 lakh beneficiaries have been given COVID-19 vaccines in the first two days of India's countywide vaccination drive against the novel coronavirus infection and 447 cases of adverse events after inoculation have been reported.
Most of the 447 cases are minor and only three of the cases required hospitalisation, said Additional Health Secretary Manohar Agnani.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the world's largest inoculation drive against COVID-19 on Saturday and said the two vaccines being deployed, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishiled, will ensure a "decisive victory" for India against the pandemic. Pune-based Serum Institute of India is manufacturing the Covishield vaccine.
Officials in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Assam said around 50 percent of intended beneficiaries have taken the jab. State officials said that vaccination was voluntary and the pace would pick up in a few days while in Delhi, a senior official said the government would take measures like counselling health workers to increase the percentage of them getting the vaccine.
India's COVID-19 case count on Sunday climbed to 1,05,57,985 with 15,144 new cases reported in 24 hours, while the toll rose to 1,52,274 with 181 more succumbing to COVID-19 in 24 hours, said the health ministry in its morning update. A total of 1,01,96,885 people have recuperated from the disease so far, pushing the national recovery rate to 96.58 percent, the ministry's data showed.
There are 2,08,826 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which comprises 1.98 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated. The COVID-19 case fatality rate stood at 1.44 percent.
17,072 vaccinated on Sunday, says health ministry
In a press briefing on the COVID-19 vaccination, Agnani said "Today being Sunday, only six states conducted vaccination drive and in 553 sessions, a total of 17,072 beneficiaries were vaccinated," he said.
The six states where the vaccination drive was carried out on Sunday are Andhra Pradesh (308 sessions), Arunachal Pradesh (14 sessions), Karnataka (64 sessions), Kerala (one session), Manipur (one session) and Tamil Nadu (165 sessions), he said.
In Tamil Nadu, 2,847 beneficiaries received Covishield and 183 were administered Covaxin on Sunday, taking the total number of persons vaccinated in the state to 6,156, according to the state health department. Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan, overseeing the vaccination exercise in Tiruchirappalli district, was administered the vaccine. "I have been administered Covaxin and both Covishield and Covaxin vaccines are safe," the top official said and thanked the doctors and nurses for their work. People who came forward for immunisation on the opening day was 3,100 plus though the government had in place a capacity to administer vaccines to about 16,600 people, Radhakrishnan said.
In Andhra Pradesh, less than 50 percent of the targeted beneficiaries turned up on Sunday but this was the highest in the country according to news agency PTI. According to data released by the health department, only 13,041 healthcare workers got the COVID-19 vaccine administered across the state against the targeted 27,233 for the day.
As per the health department data, in the first two days, a total 32,149 people were vaccinated against the target of 58,803. Asked about the poor response, a health official said the numbers would increase slowly. "Vaccination is voluntary, so we can't forcibly bring people and give a shot," the official observed.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said a total of 4,319 healthcare workers " 53.3 percent of those registered "got the vaccine shots on the first day of the COVID-19 vaccination drive on Saturday.
Jain noted that a similar trend was observed across the country, adding that around 50 percent of those registered got the jabs on the first day. "Some people decided not to turn up at the last moment. The vaccination programme is completely voluntary. We cannot ask anyone to compulsorily take the shot even if the person has registered for it," he said.
"We will hold counselling sessions to create awareness so that apprehensions of the health workers could be allayed. They will also be called on phones to seek their confirmation and also to encourage them to come forward for taking the vaccines," a senior Delhi government official said later in the day.
"It is necessary to boost confidence of the health workers towards vaccination because its a voluntary exercise. Still, if some health workers do not come forward for it, they may be included in the next sessions on the coming days as per a roster," he added. Jain said that the number of vaccination centres in Delhi will be increased from 81 to 175 soon.
Assam's National Health Mission director Dr S Lakshmanan said the state had expected 6,500 beneficiaries to be vaccinated on the first day of the inoculation drive on Saturday, but 3,528 of the targeted people turned up and added that some people whose name were not on the list for the first day, came to the selected sites, Lakshmanan said the drive will gather momentum in the next five to ten days. "We are reaching out to people, targeted to receive the vaccine, over phone. We are confident that they will come to the vaccination sites in the next few days", he said, adding that all efforts are being made to allay apprehension, if any, from the minds of people.
In Uttar Pradesh, where 20,076 health care workers got their jabs on Saturday, Additional Chief Secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal said the rest of the health workers will be vaccinated by 22 January.
Health ministry says 477 adverse events reported so farOn Sunday, Agnani said a total of 2,24,301 beneficiaries have been vaccinated across the country till 17 January, as per provisional reports, adding that 2,07,229 of them received the jabs on day one of the vaccination drive. "The number of people vaccinated in the country on day one of the drive is the highest in the world. It is higher than (the numbers in) the US, UK and France on day one," he said.
Agnani said an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) is any unexpected medical occurrence which follows immunisation and it may or may not be related to the vaccine or vaccination process. Noting that only a few AEFI cases may require hospitalisation which are classified under serious AEFI, Agnani said protocols are in place for reporting, immediate case management at vaccination session site, transportation and hospitalisation and further care of such cases.
"Protocols are also in place for systematic investigation and causality assessment of serious AEFI (cases)," he said.
"A total of 447 Adverse Effects after Immunisation (AEFI) have been reported on 16 an 17 January, out of which only three required hospitalisation. Most of the AEFI reported so far are minor like fever, headache, nausea," he said.
Agnani said that of the three people hospitalised post-vaccination, two have been discharged from the Northern Railway Hospital and AIIMS in Delhi and one is under observation in AIIMS Rishikesh and is doing fine.
2,07,229 people were vaccinated on day one- the highest day one vaccination number in the world; Higher than the US, UK and France on day one: Health Ministry pic.twitter.com/BGIRvq9aw5
" ANI (@ANI) January 17, 2021
In Delhi, one "severe" and 51 "minor" cases of AEFI were reported among health workers who were administered the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday, according to official figures. Earlier in the day, Jain had said that the 51 had been discharged "after some time."
According to news agency PTI, a 35-year-old nurse was on Saturday admitted to the critical care unit (CCU) of Kolkata's Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital as she complained of uneasiness and fainted shortly after taking the shot.
"She is stable. We have formed a board of experts to take care of the treatment procedure. Let's see how quickly we can analyse the reason behind her illness and come up with a solution. As of now, she is responding well to the treatment," a senior health official told PTI on Sunday. The health department is also consulting vaccine expert Dr Shantunu Tripathy, who was earlier associated with School of Tropical Medicine, he said.
Asked if there was any underlying cause, the official said, "No one can say anything for sure as of now. Experts are examining her condition. We have found out that the woman suffers from chronic Asthma and is hypersensitive to a number of drugs."
Andhra Pradesh health commissioner Katamaneni Bhaskar said only two adverse events following immunisation were reported in the state, one each in Krishna and SPS Nellore districts, but there was nothing serious.
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said there has been no report of adverse reaction or side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine following inoculation on Saturday, adding that "everything was safe, it will be safe."
The Maharashtra government on Saturday evening announced suspension of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state till Monday owing to problems in the Co-WIN app.
Tope said it is expected that a "small technical glitch" in the app of the Centre will be addressed by Sunday or Monday and the drive will be conducted again on Tuesday. "Anyways, we have to conduct the drive for four days in a week. So, we can undertake it from Tuesday to Friday," he added.
The health ministry too said that states and UTs were advised to plan COVID-19 vaccination sessions four days in a week to minimise disruption of routine health services and some states have already publicised their weekly vaccination days. Agnani said the vaccination drive will be carried out six days a week in Andhra Pradesh and five days a week in Mizoram.
The drive will be carried out four days a week in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
It will be carried out three days a week in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Nagaland and Odisha, and two days a week in Goa, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.
The official further said a meeting was held with all states and UTs on Sunday to review the progress of the drive, identify bottlenecks and plan corrective actions.
'All data pertaining to vaccine trials should be made public'
Meanwhile, in a statement, the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum said the Clinical Trial (PMSF) Phase 3 data should be evaluated in a transparent manner as and when available for India for both vaccines and the decision to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) may be revisited once the Phase 3 trials are completed.
They demanded that all data pertaining to the vaccine trials should be made public to enable scientists and healthcare workers to make informed choices regarding administration of vaccines for themselves and for their larger communities.
"All healthcare workers should have an option for opting out without any fear, coercion or any other adverse impact on them, including linking vaccination status to air travel restrictions," it said. The body further demanded that the continuation or eligibility for working as healthcare should not have any precondition of COVID-19 vaccination, as is being done in a few countries.
Will poor and underprivileged get free COVID-19 vaccine, asks Congress
Meanwhile, politics over the vaccines and vaccination drive continued. Reacting to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's jibe at the Centre for sending "inadequate" supply of vaccines to West Bengal, the BJP Sunday retorted sharply, saying in fact several TMC leaders queued up for the jabs meant for healthcare personnel and frontline workers resulting in shortage of doses for the needy.
Several TMC leaders, including two MLAs, were among the people who received the COVID-19 vaccine in Purba Bardhaman district on Saturday, the opening day of the nationwide vaccination programme. Many healthcare workers in the state had alleged that they could not get the jab though they were asked to come for it.
"The vaccines sent by the central government are for healthcare staffers, police personnel and other frontline workers who are serving the society in the pandemic situation. Nearly 3.5 crore vials were dispatched by the Centre across the country. These doses are not meant for political leaders. If these vaccines were taken by some TMC leaders, there would be a shortfall," BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh told reporters Sunday. Some TMC leaders are so scared of their lives that they jumped the gun, violating the norms, he quipped.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Uttar Pradesh legislator Pradeep Mathur said: "It would have been better had Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented an example like that of Joe Biden, the President-elect of the US, by getting himself vaccinated. By taking the COVID-19 vaccine shot, he would have injected confidence among people of the country. People are still feeling hesitant in getting themselves vaccinated,"
The Congress also sought to know whether the government plans to provide free vaccines to all Indians, especially the underprivileged and the poor, and when. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that though the government claims it will cover three crore people in the first round of the vaccination drive, it is yet to clarify if the remaining population of India will get a vaccine and whether they will get it for free.
"Is the government not aware that 81.35 crore people are eligible for subsidised ration under the Food Security Act? Will the SC, ST, BC, OBC, BPL, APL, the poor and the underprivileged get the vaccine for free or not? If yes, what is the roll-out plan and by when will the government ensure free vaccination," he asked at a press conference.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government need to answer... Who will get free corona vaccine? How many people will get the free corona vaccine? Where will you get free corona vaccine?" he asked.
Surjewala also raised questions over the pricing of the two vaccines and asked why the government has not put them in the National List of Essential Medicines.
The Congress general secretary asked why the government should pay Rs 95 more to Bharat Biotech for a vaccine that has been developed with the expertise and experience of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientists. "Should the price of such a vaccine not be cheaper than the AstraZeneca-Serum Institute? Why is the price of corona vaccine Rs 1,000 per dose in the open market?" he asked.
He said the government should seek transparency from companies on the cost of production and profits being made from the vaccine.
Surjewala also dubbed the launch of the vaccination drive as a "publicity stunt". "While India stands united in providing immunisation against the coronavirus to our frontline corona warriors " doctors, health workers, police personnel and others " let's remember that vaccinations are an important public service and not a political or business opportunity," he told reporters. Surjewala said, "Corona vaccine for all should be the policy of this government."
Congress leader P Chidambaram also said that it is not the government or mythological beliefs, but the vaccine developed by scientists that will win the war against the coronavirus.
Active caseload below 2,000 for first time
The Union health ministry on Sunday said the share of India's active COVID-19 cases, which stand at 2,08,826, has fallen below two petcent of the total caseload for the first time and attributed the fall to the steady decline in the daily cases.
The country has reported less than 20,000 daily cases over the past 10 days, it said. According to the ministry, India has recorded less than 300 daily deaths for the last 23 days.
The ministry said six states and union territories accounted for 66.30 percent of the new fatalities.
The Delhi health minister said that the COVID-19 positivity rate in the National Capital has come down to 0.44 per cent. "The coronavirus positivity rate has remained below 0.5 percent for the last few days. We can comfortably say that the third wave is on the wane. Cases have decreased. Still, I want to appeal to people to take precautions and use masks," he said.
Schools in Delhi, Rajasthan to partially reopen from Monday
Schools in Delhi (for classes 10 and 12, outside containment zones) and schools for classes 9-12 and coaching institutions in Rajasthan are set to reopen from Monday, with restrictions and COVID-19 precuations.
The Mizoram government, too, in guidelines issued on Saturday, allowed schools and hostels for classes 10 and 12 to repoen from 22 January. The guidelines said churches will be allowed to open with 50 percent seating capacity or 200 attendees on every Saturday and Sunday at noon from first February. The state government also eased a few other restrictions.
West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee said schools in the state will reopen only when students and teachers are not at any risk of contracting COVID-19.
"There have been instances of people getting infected after resumption of classes in another state, where schools had to shut again. We don't want to have the same experience in Bengal. We will take the decision of reopening of school campuses at the appropriate time," he told reporters.
With inputs from PTI