December 21, 2021 3:22:14 am
THE EFFECTIVENESS of Covid vaccines available in India against the Omicron variant will be known within a week, when the results of a related study are published, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament Monday.
The Health Minister also said that out of 161 Omicron infections across the country so far, 80 per cent are asymptomatic and 13 per cent are mild cases — 44 patients have recovered.
Besides, he said, the Government is taking all steps to tackle any surge, based on learnings from the first and second waves, including ramping up medical oxygen capacity and buffer stock of medicines.
The Government has also activated 38 labs, with a combined monthly processing capacity of 30,000, to carry out genome sequencing of coronavirus, the Minister said.
Responding to a short discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the situation following the detection of Omicron, Mandaviya said: “A study is being carried out to know whether our vaccines are working against the variant or not. The culture of the Omicron variant, which is needed for that purpose, is being developed. In another one week, the report will come. We will be able to say, based on that.”
He said the medicine protocol for Omicron will be along the lines of those used against other variants like Delta. The new variant was first detected in South Africa on November 24 and has now spread to 96 countries, he said.
The three Covid vaccines deployed so far in India are Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik. Two more indigenous vaccines are soon expected to receive emergency use approval with two companies submitting relevant data, Mandaviya said.
With 137 crore doses administered so far, 88 per cent of the country’s population have received one dose of the vaccine, while 58 per cent have been fully vaccinated, he said.
Mandaviya said the figures are impressive when seen alongside numbers in countries with less populations. For example, he said, in the UK, US, Germany and Italy, the share of first-dose coverage is 76, 72, 73 and 79 per cent, respectively.
India’s vaccine manufacturing capacity will reach 45 crore doses per month in the next two months, Mandaviya said, adding that the current capacity is 31 crore doses.
Referring to criticism from Opposition parties on various aspects of the vaccination drive, Mandaviya said the 2.5 crore doses administered on September 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday, did not require any diktat from the Government as the participation of people was “spontaneous”.
The Health Minister also dismissed allegations that faulty ventilators were given to states by the Centre. “So far, 48,000 ventilators have been given to the states. There were comments on the effectiveness of the ventilators. So, we directed the states to submit to us in writing the number of ventilators received, those made operational and found functional. This number of 48,000 is based on reports from the states,” he said.