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Multiple IDs will be used to give Covid vaccine, clarifies government

Asked whether the NDHM digital ID would be mandatory to receive the vaccine, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at the weekly briefing on Covid-19 that in order to ensure no one was deprived of vaccination, multiple IDs would be used during the inoculation drive.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: October 21, 2020 7:46:35 am
Multiple IDs will be used to give Covid vaccine: govtOn Monday, PM Modi had said that the country was working on putting in place a well-established vaccine delivery system – and that this digitised network, along with the digital health ID, would be used to ensure the immunisation of citizens.

Several IDs apart from the unique digital health ID under the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) would be prescribed for the Covid-19 vaccination drive expected next year, the government said on Tuesday.

Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said that experimental convalescent plasma therapy was likely to be removed from the national clinical management protocol for the disease, based on evidence that has emerged from the world’s largest clinical trial, which was conducted in India.

Asked whether the NDHM digital ID would be mandatory to receive the vaccine, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at the weekly briefing on Covid-19 that in order to ensure no one was deprived of vaccination, multiple IDs would be used during the inoculation drive.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the country was working on putting in place a well-established vaccine delivery system – and that this digitised network, along with the digital health ID, would be used to ensure the immunisation of citizens.

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“The National Digital Health Mission as it exists today does not make digital ID mandatory to receive service under the digital ecosystem that it is creating. Therefore, to say that it would become mandatory for vaccination and those who don’t have health IDs would be deprived, is probably not the right interpretation,” Bhushan said.

“Health ID would be utilised in those cases where the individual/recipient/beneficiary does not have (another) health ID; there are multiple other IDs which can be utilised as in the case of the present NDHM. It would be almost like the electoral scenario, where multiple IDs are prescribed (for voters) beforehand, so that no one is deprived of the benefits of vaccination,” he said.

Bhushan said the government had received over 7,000 comments on data management policy on the digital health ID, and that the Centre could “suitably” refine the policy based on them. “…There is a Bill pending in Parliament which addresses this issue… NDHM has a data management policy, which has been in public domain for the last one month, and we received… comments which ensure both individual data privacy as well as data security. Based on the comments… we would be suitably refining our policy.”

Dr Bhargava said discussions were under way on WHO’s Solidarity Trial that has concluded that four experimental drugs – including the anti-malaria drug HCQ and remdesivir, which are part of India’s treatment protocol – have no effect on hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

“India has done the largest trial on plasma therapy. This paper was accepted by the British Medical Journal and we have received the proofs of it. It will appear very soon with more than 10 pages of hardcore science talking about plasma therapy and Covid-19. We have had a discussion with the national task force and we are further discussing with the joint monitoring group. This (plasma therapy) may be deleted from the national guidelines,” Dr Bhargava said.

“WHO’s solidarity trial, of which India has been a participant, has just put up their interim results. These have not yet been peer-reviewed. However, we find that these drugs are not performing as we expected. Debate and discussion is on-going at the task force, and we would take into cognizance the results of these trials and issue the advisory accordingly,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Centre said that 246 independent oxygen generation plants were being installed in hospitals in 18 states; 67 were at various stages of completion. In the second phase, 150 additional plants would be installed.

“We have also started the process of importing 1 lakh MT (metric tonnes of oxygen) to ensure adequate stock to address any anticipated surge in Covid-19 cases,” Bhushan said.

The government released data that show a marginal decline in the number of patients on oxygen support as compared to the peak in September, and said that oxygen production capacity has been enhanced from 5,918 MT in April to 7,919 MT by the end of October.

“These are beds in ICU with oxygen support, ventilators and oxygen supported beds. On September 1, 43,022 patients were on these beds; this number steadily increased and on September 25, this number was 75,098. This number then started declining and today it stands at 57,357… The number is still high… but we should not be worried because our installed capacity is very high (compared to the requirement).

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