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2.27 lakh Pregnant Women receive COVID Vaccines in less than a month


In a significant development, over 2.27 lakh pregnant women have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine under the ongoing National COVID Vaccination drive.

The state of Tamil Nadu is leading the way by vaccinating over 78,838 pregnant women, followed by Andhra Pradesh with 34,228, Odisha with 29,821, Madhya Pradesh with 21,842, Kerala with 18,423 and Karnataka with 16,673 pregnant women vaccinated.

As part of the campaign to allay fears, apprehensions, misinformed rumours and some social taboos and issues, a guidance note to assist the States/UTs in operationalizing the COVID vaccination programme for pregnant women was shared by the Union Health Ministry on 2nd July 2021. This was followed up by training of the programme managers, service providers and frontline health workers to equip them to counsel the pregnant women and their families during antenatal care about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy. The States/UTs further sensitized their vaccination teams in the Government and private COVID Vaccination Centres (CVCs) regarding COVID vaccination for pregnant women.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) had recommended vaccination for pregnant women leading to inclusion of pregnant women in India’s COVID Vaccination Drive. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) had unanimously recommended it earlier.  Additionally, a national level Consultation on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women was convened by Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to build consensus on COVID Vaccination of pregnant women.


PM interacts with CMs of 6 states to discuss Covid situation


Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacted with the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra and Kerala to discuss the Covid related situation.

Union Home Minister, Health Minister were also present in the meeting. The Chief Ministers talked about the steps taken to boost medical infrastructure and gave suggestions on dealing with any possible rise of cases in future. They also discussed post-Covid issues being faced by patients and steps being taken to provide assistance in such cases. They gave assurance that they are doing their best to control the surge of infection.

Union Home Minister mentioned that these six states account for more than eighty per cent of the total cases during the month of July, while some of these states have a very high test positivity rate as well. Union Health Secretary discussed the Covid cases in the country and talked about the need to reinforce Covid appropriate behaviour and containment measures in districts with high caseload. He also suggested that opening up of these districts should be done in a graded and calibrated manner.

The Prime Minister lauded the state governments for their mutual cooperation and learning in their fight against the pandemic. The Prime Minister said that all of us are at a point where apprehensions of the third wave are continuously expressed. Despite experts giving positive signals due to the downward trends, the increasing number of cases in few states is still worrisome. The Prime Minister pointed out that during the last week 80 per cent of cases and 84 per cent of unfortunate deaths came from the states present in the meeting. Initially, experts believed that states, where the second wave originated, will see the normalization first. However, increasing numbers in Kerala and Maharashtra are a cause of grave worry, said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister cautioned that similar trends were seen in January-February before the second wave. That’s why, the Prime Minister insisted, that in the states where cases are rising, we have to take proactive measures to prevent the possibility of the third wave.

The Prime Minister underlined the expert's view that if the cases keep on rising for a long time, chances of mutation of the Coronavirus will also increase and dangers of new variants will also rise. Therefore, said the Prime Minister, we need to continue with the strategy of Test, Track, Treat and Teeka (vaccination) while putting special focus on Micro-containment zones. Districts with large numbers should be focussed on. Terming vaccines as a strategic tool for high infection areas, the Prime Minister stressed the effective use of vaccination. The Prime Minister praised the states who are using this time to improve their RT-PCR testing capacity.

The Prime Minister exhorted the states to fill the infrastructural gaps, especially in the rural areas. He also asked to strengthen IT systems, control rooms and call centres so that citizens get access to resources and data in a transparent manner and patients are spared the hassle. 

The Prime Minister reiterated that Corona is not over and expressed deep concern over the pictures that are coming post lockdown. He emphasized the need to follow protocol and avoid crowding as many states in the meeting have metropolitan cities with dense populations. He also called upon political parties, social organizations, and NGOs to spread awareness among people.


Covid Vaccination Coverage


COVID-19 Vaccination coverage (as on 13th July 2021) as per data released by Health Ministry:-

Healthcare workers - 1.76 crore doses
Frontline workers - 2.77 crore doses
People above 45 yrs - 21.80 crore doses
People aged 18-44 yrs - 11.82 crore doses

Total doses administered - 38.15 crore


India's Cumulative Recoveries crosses 3 crore mark


In a significant milestone in its fight against COVID-19, India's cumulative recoveries have exceeded 3 Crore people.

Out of the people infected since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,00,14,713 people have already recovered from COVID-19 and 39,649 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours. This constitutes an overall recovery rate of 97.22 per cent, which is showing a sustained increasing trend.

On the other hand, India's cumulative vaccination coverage exceeded 37.73 crores. A total of 37,73,52,501 vaccine doses have been administered through 48,51,209 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am today.

India has reported 37,154 daily new cases in the last 24 hours. Less than 50,000 Daily New Cases have been reported for fifteen continuous days. This is a result of sustained and collaborative efforts by the Centre and the States/UTs.

With substantially ramped up testing capacity across the country, a total of 14,32,343 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours in the country. Cumulatively, India has conducted over 43 crore (43,23,17,813) tests so far.


Union Home Secretary reviews steps taken for checking spread of COVID in Hill Stations, Tourist locations


Union Home Secretary chaired a meeting in New Delhi today to review the steps taken by State Governments for checking the spread of COVID-19 in Hill Stations and Tourist locations.

During the meeting, the overall management of the COVID-19 situation and the vaccination status in respect of the States of Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal was discussed. Union Home Secretary sounded a note of caution keeping in view the media reports which showed a blatant disregard of COVID-appropriate behaviour in hill stations and other tourist locations. He emphasised that the second wave of COVID was not yet over; and States should ensure strict adherence to the protocols prescribed in respect of wearing of masks, social distancing and other safe behaviour. 

It was observed that the decline of the second wave is at variable stages in the different States/UTs in the country and that while the overall case positivity rate may be declining, the case positivity rate in certain districts of Rajasthan, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh is over 10 per cent, which is a cause for concern. States were also asked to follow the five-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and COVID Appropriate Behaviour, as has been laid out in the MHA order dated 29th June 2021. Adequate health infrastructure preparedness (especially in rural, peri-urban and tribal areas) was also advised, with a view to tackling any potential future surge in cases.

The meeting was attended by Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog; Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GoI; Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research; and Chief Secretaries, Directors General of Police and Principal Secretaries (Health) of the eight States.


Health Ministry approves COVID vaccination of pregnant women


Based on recommendations from the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), the Union Ministry of Health and family Welfare (MoHFW) today approved the vaccination of pregnant women against COVID-19.

The decision has been communicated to all the States / UTs to implement it under the ongoing National COVID Vaccination Program.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 infection during pregnancy may result in rapid deterioration of health of pregnant women and they are at an increased risk of severe diseases and it might affect fetus too. The matter has been examined by domain knowledge experts based on the evidence that indicates that pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared to non-pregnant women in case they get infected. Further, pregnant women with COVID-19 infection are at an increased risk for preterm birth and other adverse pregnancy outcomes including higher chances of neonatal morbidity. Additionally, the experts have also highlighted pre-existing co-morbidities, advanced maternal age, and high body mass Index as factors for severe COVID-19 in pregnancy.

The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI) has recommended vaccination for pregnant women. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) too has unanimously recommended it.  Further, a national level Consultation on COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant women was also convened by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to build consensus on COVID Vaccination of pregnant women. The consultation unanimously welcomed the recommendation of NTAGI to vaccinate pregnant women. The consultation included professional bodies like FOGSI, representatives of State Governments, CSOs, NGOs, Development Partner agencies, technical experts etc.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has accepted these recommendations and prepared an Operational Guideline for vaccination of pregnant women, Counselling kit for Medical Officers and FLWs, and IEC material for general public to equip the States/ UTs to carry out the vaccination of pregnant women. Pregnant woman, who opts for vaccination, can be vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines available in the country any time during their pregnancy at the nearest Government or Private COVID-19 Vaccination Center (CVC) after registration on CoWIN or by walk-in registration at the nearest CVC.


Centre rushes teams to 6 States for COVID


As an ongoing effort to strengthen the efforts of various State/UT Governments for COVID management, the Central Government has been deputing Central teams from time to time to visit various States/UTs.

These teams interact with the State/UT authorities and get a first-hand understanding of the challenges and issues being faced by them so as to strengthen their ongoing activities and remove bottlenecks if any. 

The Centre has today deputed multi-disciplinary teams to Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Manipur in view of the increased number of COVID-19 cases being reported by these States. The team to Manipur will be led by Dr L Swasticharan, Add. DDG & Director EMR; team to Arunachal Pradesh will be led by Dr Sanjay Sadhukhan, Professor AIIH and PH; for Tripura Dr R.N. Sinha Dir Professor, AIIH and PH; for Kerala Dr Ruchi Jain, Public Health Specialist Gr. II, RoHFW; for Odisha Dr A Dan, Public Health Specialist AIIH and PH and for Chhattisgarh Dr Dibakar Sahu, Assistant Professor, AIIMS Raipur.

Teams will be supporting them in their efforts for targeted COVID response and management, and effectively tackling the pandemic.

The two-member high-level team to these states consists of a clinician and a public health expert. The teams will visit the States immediately and monitor the overall implementation of COVID-19 management, especially in testing, including surveillance and containment operations; COVID Appropriate Behaviour and its enforcement; availability of hospital beds, sufficient logistics including ambulances, ventilators, medical oxygen etc., and COVID-19 Vaccination progress. The teams will monitor the situation and also suggest remedial actions.

The Central teams will assess the situation and suggest remedial actions on public health activities to the respective state governments. Copy of the report will also be provided to the Union Health Ministry.


Vice President stresses the need to address vaccine hesitancy


Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today emphasized the need to educate people on the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and urged all stakeholders to work collectively to achieve the target of full vaccination by year-end.

The Vice President made these remarks on the occasion of Doctors' Day during a book presentation to him by the well-known nephrologist, Dr Georgi Abraham in Chennai today. The book titled "MY PATIENTS MY GOD- JOURNEY OF A KIDNEY DOCTOR" chronicles the professional journey of Dr Abraham as a doctor, educationist and researcher over the past four decades.

On this occasion, Mr Naidu underlined the need to address vaccine hesitancy in some sections of the population, especially in rural areas. There is a need to dispel fears in some sections and the vaccination drive should turn into a truly pan-India 'Jan Andolan', he said and urged the medical fraternity to take a lead in creating awareness and educating the people on the importance of getting themselves vaccinated.

Stating that community support is critical in our fight against Coronavirus, the Vice President said that those having vaccine hesitancy should be made aware of the fact that they are putting their own lives and those of their family members at avoidable risk.

Talking about the sacrifices of the healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vice President said that they are exposing themselves to grave risk in saving the lives of those infected by the deadly virus. Referring to the Indian Medical Association figure of nearly 1500 members of the medical fraternity succumbing to Covid-19, Mr Naidu said that this shows their unmatched dedication towards their profession and commitment to the Hippocratic Oath. Thanking the healthcare professionals for their selfless service to humanity, Mr Naidu said that Nation shall ever remain grateful for their sacrifice.

Referring to ‘Vaidyo Narayano Hari’, he highlighted the place of respect and reverence accorded to doctors by Indian society. Maintaining that our country has an inherent strength of knowledge and trained manpower, Mr Naidu appreciated the scientists, researchers and doctors who raced against the time to develop safe and effective vaccines and other essential items such as PPE kits, testing kits and ventilators

He also paid tributes to renowned doctor, educationist and freedom fighter, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy whose birth anniversary is commemorated as Doctors' Day.

#COVID19 #MVenkaiahNaidu

Delta and Delta Plus Variants: What you need to know


Various questions are arising in the minds of people related to the variants of COVID-19 virus including Delta and Delta Plus Variants.

Secretary, Department of Biotechnology; Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research; and Director, National Centre for Disease Control have answered many questions about these of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. PIB has curated the answers, given at a COVID Media Briefing held by the Health Ministry on June 25, 2021.

InfoDigger is presenting some of these queries and answers for its readers:-

Q. Why are frequent mutations seen in SARS-CoV-2 virus? When will the mutations stop?

SARS-CoV-2 can mutate due to the following reasons:

1. Random error during replication of virus.
2. Immune pressure faced by viruses after treatments such as convalescent plasma, vaccination or monoclonal antibodies (antibodies produced by a single clone of cells with identical antibody molecules).
3. Uninterrupted transmission due to lack of COVID-appropriate behaviour. Here the virus finds excellent host to grow and becomes more fit and more transmissible.
The virus will continue to mutate as long as the pandemic remains. This makes it all the more crucial to follow COVID appropriate behavior.

Q.  What are Variants of Interest (VoI) and Variants of Concern (VoC)?

When the mutations happen – if there is any previous association with any other similar variant which is felt to have an impact on public health – then it becomes a Variant under Investigation.

Once genetic markers are identified which can have an association with receptor binding domain or which have an implication on antibodies or neutralizing assays, we start calling them as Variants of Interest.

The moment we get evidence for increased transmission through field-site and clinical correlations, it becomes a Variant of Concern. Variants of concern are those that have one or more of the following characteristics:

- Increased transmissibility
- Change in virulence/ disease presentation
- Evading the diagnostics, drugs and vaccines
- The 1st Variant of Concern was announced by the UK where it was found. Currently there are four variants of concern identified by the scientists - Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta.

Q. What are Delta and Delta Plus variants?

These are the names given to variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, based on the mutations found in them. WHO has recommended using letters of the Greek Alphabet, i.e., Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), Delta (B.1.617), etc., to denote variants, for easier public understanding.

Delta variant, also known as SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617, has about 15-17 mutations. It was first reported in October 2020. More than 60% of cases in Maharashtra in February 2021 pertained to delta variants.

It is the Indian scientists who identified the Delta Variant and submitted it to the global database. Delta variant is classified as a Variant of Concern and has now spread to 80 countries, as per WHO.

Delta variant (B.1.617) has three subtypes B1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3, among which B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.3 have been classified as Variant of Interest, while B.1.617.2 (Delta Plus) has been classified as a Variant of Concern.

The Delta Plus variant has an additional mutation in comparison to Delta variant; this mutation has been named as the K417N mutation. ‘Plus’ means an additional mutation has happened to the Delta variant. It does not mean that the Delta Plus variant is more severe or highly transmissible than the Delta variant.

Q. Why has the Delta Plus Variant (B.1.617.2) been classified as a Variant of Concern?

The Delta Plus variant has been classified as Variant of Concern because of the following characteristics:

- Increased transmissibility
- Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
- Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response
- Potential post vaccination immune escape

Q. What is the trend of Variants of Concern circulating in India?

As per the latest data, 90 per cent of samples tested have been found to have Delta Variants (B.1.617). However, B.1.1.7 strain which was the most prevalent variant in India in the initial days of the pandemic has decreased.

Q. Why public health action is not taken immediately after noticing mutations in virus?

It is not possible to say whether the mutations noticed will increase transmission. Also, until there is scientific evidence that proves a correlation between rising number of cases and variant proportion, we cannot confirm there is a surge in the particular variant. Once mutations are found, analysis is made week on week to find if there is any such correlation between the surge of cases and variant proportion. Public health action can be taken only after scientific proofs for such correlation are available.

Once such correlation is established, this will help greatly to prepare in advance when such variant is seen in another area/region.

Q. Do COVISHIELD and COVAXIN work against the variants of SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, COVISHIELD and COVAXIN are both effective against the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants. Lab tests to check vaccine effectiveness on Delta Plus Variant are ongoing.

Delta Plus Variants: The virus has been isolated and is being cultured now at ICMR’s National Institute of Virology, Pune. Laboratory tests to check vaccine effectiveness are ongoing and the results will be available in 7 to 10 days. This will be the first result in the world.

Q. What are the public health interventions being carried out to tackle these variants?

The public health interventions needed are the same, irrespective of the variants. The following measures are being taken:

- Cluster containment
- Isolation and Treatment of cases
- Quarantining of contacts
- Ramping up vaccination

Q. What does a common man do to protect him/her from these Variants of Concern?

One must follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour, which includes wearing a mask properly, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distancing.

The second wave is not over yet. It is possible to prevent a big third wave provided individuals and society practise protective behaviour.

Further, Test Positivity Rate must be closely monitored by each district. If the test positivity goes above 5 per cent, strict restrictions must be imposed.


Dr Reddy's announces commercial launch of 2 DG


Dr. Reddy's Laboratories today announced the commercial launch of 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG). 

Dr. Reddy's will supply the same to major Government as well as private hospitals across India. In the initial weeks, the Company will make the drug available in hospitals across metros and Tier 1 cities, and subsequently expand coverage to the rest of India.

According to a press release issued by Dr. Reddy's, the 2-DG manufactured by them has a purity of 99.5 per cent and is being sold commercially under the brand name 2DGTM. The maximum retail price (MRP) of each sachet has been fixed at Rs 990, with a subsidized rate offered to Government institutions. 

2-DG was developed by the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS), a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in collaboration with Dr. Reddy's. 2-DG is an oral drug. It can be administered only upon prescription and under the supervision of a qualified physician to hospitalised moderate to severe COVID-19 patients as an adjunct therapy to the existing standard of care.

Emergency use approval for anti-COVID-19 therapeutic application of the drug was granted on May 1, 2021.