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Aiming for herd immunity without pharma interventions may have disastrous consequences

rying to develop herd immunity against COVID-19 in the absence of established pharmaceutical interventions may have disastrous consequences in terms of morbidity and mortality, Rajya Sabha was told.

Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey, in a written reply, said in the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries that thought of developing herd immunity through a natural process of allowing the disease transmission had very high morbidity and mortality and therefore, “had to abandon the strategy”.

The minister was responding to a question on whether state governments are following herd immunity measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Ministry of Health has issued plans, procedures, advisories, and SoPs to the state governments for containment of the pandemic which is based on the strategy of breaking/suppressing the chain of transmission, Mr. Choubey highlighted.

“Development of herd immunity essentially means allowing the virus to run through the population. In the absence of established pharmaceutical interventions, this may have disastrous consequences in terms of morbidity and mortality,” he underlined.

Elaborating on the measures being implemented by the government to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Choubey said public health actions were taken in a pre-emptive, pro-active, graded manner based on the evolving scenario.

A number of travel advisories were issued restricting inflow of international travellers, till such time, commercial flights were suspended on March 23. Till then, a total of 14,154 flights with 15,24,266 passengers have been screened at these airports.

Screening was also done at 12 major and 65 minor ports and land border crossings. In the initial part of the pandemic, India evacuated a large number of stranded passengers from then COVID affected countries (China, Italy, Iran, Japan, Malaysia) and again in the un-lockdown phase, a total of 13,53,522 passengers have been brought back (as on September 17) and followed up, he said.

Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) is conducting contact tracing through community surveillance. In the earlier part of the pandemic, this was done for travel related cases and subsequently for cases being reported from community as a part of containment strategy.

“As on September 18, a total of about 40 lakh persons have been kept under surveillance. There are 1,768 laboratories conducting COVID-19 Testing (as on 18th September). India is testing about 1 million samples a day,” the minister informed.

A total of 6.15 crore samples have been tested as on September 17.

As on September 18, a total of 15,446 COVID treatment facilities with 13,32,225 dedicated isolation bed without O2 support have been created.

Also, a total of 2,32,665 oxygen supported isolation beds and 64,285 ICU beds (including 32,609 ventilator beds), Mr. Choubey informed.

Guidelines on Clinical management of COVID-19 have been issued and are being updated regularly. States are being supported in terms of supply of logistics, the minister said.

So far 1.41 Crore of PPE Kits, 3.44 crores N-95 masks, 10.84 crore tablets of Hydroxychloroquine and 30,796 ventilators and 1,02,400 oxygen cylinders have been supplied to States/UTs/ Central Government hospitals so far (as on September 18).

Various cadres of personnel and volunteers across sectors and departments for COVID related work sand maintenance of other essential medical services have been worked out, trained through resources made available on the website of MoHFW, iGOT (online platform) by DOPT.

Besides, more than 30 vaccine candidates have been supported which are in different stages of development and three candidates are in advanced stage of phase I, II and III trials and more than four are in advanced pre-clinical development stage.

A National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 has been constituted on August 7, under NITI Ayog. Thirteen clinical trials of repurposed drugs have been undertaken to build a portfolio of therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients, Mr. Choubey said. – The Hindu

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