India currently in the second phase of lockdown, is fighting back against COVID-19 with a “cluster containment strategy” to combat the disease within a defined geographic area by early detection of cases, breaking the chain of transmission and consequently preventing its spread.
According to the statement issued by the Indian Health Ministry, India will be following a strategic approach taking into account different possible situations – travel-related cases, local transmission of novel coronavirus, large outbreaks responsive to containment, and widespread community transmission of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on April 2, praised India for its robust and timely efforts to control the spread of coronavirus. There has been no community transmission of COVID-19 since the country went into lockdown, and the average growth factor of cases has declined by 40 per cent, as per the recent reports from the Union Health Ministry.
The credit for this mainly goes to the states that are aggressively fighting against the virus. Here are five Indian states that are proactively battling with innovative solutions to check the virus:
After successfully defeating the Nipah virus in 2018, and dealing with two consecutive floods, Kerala utilized these experience to check the COVID-19 spread after a slightly rough start. It was the first Indian state to report COVID-19 case and topped the list at one point. However, it has now managed to flatten the curve of the virus successfully. Out of a total 402 cases, 270 have cured/discharged, and three have scummed to died—active cases remain around 140.
The meticulous contact-tracing process and then publishing of the route map of an infected person, along with self-isolation of contacted people helped the state to combat the virus.
The excellent inter-department coordination at all levels (state, district and village panchayats) helped Kerala to achieve the success. Moreover, being transparent with the public regarding the situation, and 100 per cent checking the quarantine period by deploying officers to go to every household further helped the state.
The government launched a mobile app, GoK Direct, to check the spread of false information. The state also started a “walk-in facility” for people to get tests safely.
To combat the #coronavirus pandemic, Kerala has undertaken various initiatives including an INR 20,000 Cr package aimed at overcoming the economic impact of #Covid_19 & GoK Direct app to track the coronavirus updates! #WarAgainstVirus #CoronavirusOutbreakIndia pic.twitter.com/2yjwGjzh0X
— Invest India (@investindia) March 21, 2020
Besides this, an initiative called the CoronaSafe Network has been created, with two major components: the Corona Literacy Mission and the Corona Care Centre to create awareness about COVID-19.
The Eastern state of India is no exception to the natural disasters, the cyclone Fani which hit the state during the early months of 2019 resulted in the death of 89 people. The state had suffered around 25 per cent of India’s natural disasters, meaning that crisis precautions were already in place. The cyclone shelters, thousands in number is now being used to house migrant workers along with food.
As on 20th April, the following areas have been classified as #COVID19 Containment Zones across #Odisha. For any health assistance, call 104 Health Helpline. #coronavirus #OdishaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/sAV4Yk5PNd
— H & FW Dept Odisha (@HFWOdisha) April 20, 2020
It was the first Indian state to impose complete lockdown (before India imposed it as a whole). It was also the first state to announce exclusive COVID-19 hospitals and gave free medical treatment to all COVID-19 patients.
The state’s containment programme was rooted in the strategic use of IT. It identified the highest-risk category people coming from abroad to put them in home quarantine to contain the spread. As per the state’s IT Secretary, Manoj Mishra, over 5,000 international returnees and about 35,000 domestic returnees from COVID-19-affected states had registered and were asked to home quarantine.
As part of Odisha's fight against #COVID-19, more than 1000 Self Help Groups of Mission Shakti have achieved the milestone of making 2 million masks during lockdown. 1/2#OdishaFightsCorona@WCDOdisha@CMO_Odisha pic.twitter.com/XOmIsclcTo
— Mission Shakti (@mission_shakti) April 17, 2020
Amidst all the crisis, lack of protective gear for frontline employees were another issue. The state’s Mission Shakti Self Help Groups (SHGs) started making masks in bulk to avoid any shortage (wearing them outside is now compulsory). As per officials, SHGs have made more 1.5 million cotton masks and also running village panchayat-level kitchen centres to cook meals for those in need.
The government also paid out advance social pension of four months to around 2.8 million beneficiaries.
One of the most populous states of India-Maharashtra currently leads the table of COVID-19 with a total of 4,203 cases. The state has come up with a cluster containment strategy to deal with the virus and is using data analytics, drones and traditional patrolling methods to survey crowded places.
In every district, two to three drones are being deployed to monitor movements within the streets. A drone can cover a kilometre area once used. If the police spot anybody roaming, a team is immediately dispatched to take action. The state has further begun mass patrolling, reinforcing the message to stay inside.
India’s most populated state with approximately 200 million people, has managed well to keep the cases upto 1,084. The state further sealed all the 160 hotspots completely. Due to the spike in the number of cases during the early days of April, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adithyanath decided to increase the number of testing lab within the state.
The state government established a COVID Care Fund, to expand testing and treatment facilities; 2,400 tests are being done daily. The government is already working to support the manufacturing units of PPE, N95 masks, triple-layer masks, thermal analysers, ventilators and other equipment.
The state administration is making sure to provide food to all with the help of two platforms – Annapurna and Supply Mitra. The Annapurna gives the location of free cooked items and food packets, while the supplymitra-up.com website has listed names of kirana stores and ration shops, names of proprietors and their contact details, who are carrying out home delivery in each colony across the state.
The Bhilwara district of Rajasthan, once the worst hit by COVID-19, is now being praised as a model for the rest of the country. It has gone into a complete lockdown backed with a curfew, and the entire population went into health screening.
During the continuing lockdown, there is no relaxation, and essential items are being delivered to city residents at their doorstep. Initially, the residents had issues with such stringent restricts as they were not able to get basic supplies.
As on April 20, the state has 1,478 total confirmed cases out of which 183 have recovered, and 14 deaths have been reported.
Every state in India is doing its best to combat the virus, know the fact that a community spread will only take a few days to reach the entire population of 1.37 billion.
Hypocrisy of Federalism: Reply on Oxygen Related Deaths
On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry reported to the Parliament that no deaths were recorded due to a lack of oxygen across the country during the second wave of the pandemic.
The officials and ministers in eight states also denied fatalities due to the lack of oxygen. Whereas reports indicate that approximately 320 patients may have died in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic due to oxygen shortage.
The report by the Union Health Ministry to the Parliament has triggered massive criticism across the country. It has also prompted some significant accusations against the Bhartiya Janata Party [BJP].
The denial of the officials and ministers of the eight states regarding the same has also triggered a major rebuttal from within their parties, accusing them of aiding the Centre in hiding oxygen-related deaths.
According to a volunteer-driven data collation effort, DataMeet, Media from across 20 states report that there were approximately 619 deaths recorded due to lack of oxygen. However, later the cause of deaths was disputed with other factors that attributed to the fatalities.
The state health minister of Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope also sided with the Centre’s stand of no-oxygen-related deaths.
“As far as Maharashtra is concerned, we have never said that any death due to oxygen shortage,” he said to a local TV channel on Wednesday.
However, in April and May, the shortage of oxygen supply in the state had prompted the Chief Minister, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, to request the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to inspect the proposal of pressing the Indian Air Force to arrange additional oxygen supplies for the state.
A medical board in Hisar- a region in Haryana, had openly established oxygen shortage as a cause of deaths in the region.
Additionally, after an inquiry, 22 patients succumbed to Covid due to the lack of oxygen in Haryana.
According to the reports of DataMeet, figures indicated that approximately 68 deaths took place across the state of Madhya Pradesh due to lack of oxygen.
However, Vishwas Sarang, the medical education Minister, stated, “We received at least 10-12 complaints related to deaths due to oxygen supply disruption. Medical experts found the cause of death was other medical complications, not hypoxia,”
In Goa, between May 10- May 14, approximately 83 patients succumbed to death.
But according to Dr Shivanand Bandekar, the Dean of Goa Medical College and Hospital stated, “We can’t put this as a direct answer. People who come to GMC, they are all referred because we are a tertiary (care) center where criticality is high and most of the patients die because of Covid pneumonia where oxygen is a part of the treatment. So we cannot directly say this (disruption in the oxygen supply) is the reason why they have died,”
However, during the hearing at Goa at the time of these deaths, the state government had admitted that “some of the casualties may have taken place” due to supply disruption.
Within the same hearing, the Bombay High Court had said, “We have long passed the stage of determining whether patients are suffering from the lack of oxygen or not. The material placed before us establishes that patients are indeed suffering and even in some cases succumbing for want of the supply of oxygen, in the State of Goa.”
Officials and ministers of several states like West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh took a similar stand while siding with the Centre on their “no deaths due to Oxygen shortage” statement.
Even though various reports and data reflect a significant number of deaths due to a shortage of oxygen supply within different states, the Center and the state officials have refused to acknowledge them and have denied that these fatalities are attributed to the lack of oxygen supply.
Health Activist Amulya Nidhi from Madhya Pradesh, claims that volunteer groups from across the country have clear case studies and data that report deaths of patients across various states due to a lack of oxygen supply. “If they are so sure about it, they should allow an independent team of experts to probe the matter,” he said.
Why Are people Not Taking Covid Vaccine?
Since the beginning of the Pandemic in 2020, all people have wanted is to find a way back to normal. A way from virtual lives to real, social lives. Being trapped at home with limited movement has been fun for no one. And yet, when a solution is finally being offered, people are hesitant to embrace it. Vaccines are the solution to once and for all immunise us against this virus, but many people fail to embrace the cure. Even though the vaccination reduces risks in exposure to the mutating variants of the Novel Coronavirus, there are people reluctant to take the possibly life-saving shot.
A vaccine race began throughout the world to curb the spread of Covid, India being one of the leaders. Immunisation is proven to be the most successful means to prevent diseases. Still, there is always hesitance that follows with the process. Many reasons cause vaccine hesitancy, but three of the main reasons are inadequate knowledge and fear of side effects, the speed of vaccine development, and rumours and myths.
The biggest fear that prevents people from taking the vaccine is a fear of side effects caused by inadequate knowledge. Many of us might show reluctance in taking the vaccine, fearing the severity of side effects. This tends to happen because most people do not understand how a vaccine works and nudges our bodies to create antibodies in our system to immunise us to the virus.
Many people reason that the side effects make them sick when they have been in perfect health for so long. They believe that it is the vaccine that makes them sick. This cannot be further from the truth. The public needs to be made aware of the workings of the vaccine to promote the vaccination drive around the world.
The other cause for hesitancy is the speed at which the vaccines have been developed. Many people believe that simply because the development speed of Covid immunising shots was quicker as compared to past viruses, corners have been cut in the process. It is essential to know that this is not true as all the procedures have been followed during the development of vaccines. None of them have been permitted for distribution without clinical trials and the approval of the FDA.
The last reason is that of rumours and myths. The rural population, a key demographic in our country, is reluctant to take the vaccine due to a lack of information provided to them. The inadequacy makes them quick to believe in rumours and myths surrounding immunisation, consequently making them reluctant to participate in the process. Reports of death post the vaccine have fanned the rumour mills in rural areas regarding the fatality of the vaccine.
Hesitancy in vaccination can also be seen in another key demographic, women. The proof for this in India is the disparity in men’s vaccination ratios which are starkly contrasting. Rumours and myths surrounding vaccines have led the population to believe that taking the jab affects fertility in women. It is essential to know that vaccinations do not cause infertility in men or women. It is this kind of rumour-mongering that causes fear in people.
Misleading tweets by prominent figures also cause vaccine hesitancy. One prime example is senior advocate Prashant Bushan, whose tweets about the efficacy and safety of covid vaccines were tagged as “misleading” by Twitter.
Misinformation being spread by prominent people is another cause of reluctance in people not taking the vaccine, which must be stopped to defeat the Pandemic.
Many people who have already suffered from Coronavirus also believe that they do not need the vaccine as they are already immune to the disease. This is a falsehood that needs to be cleared as a vaccine prolongs the effectiveness of the immunisation, keeping the person safe for a more extended period.
Vaccines are preventative medicines that allow us to acquire immunity against the virus, preparing our bodies to protect us in case of exposure to the disease. While vaccination may not provide complete safety, it reduces the severity of the infection and the chances of death.
With newer and stronger variants emerging as mutations of the Coronavirus, all of us must be fully vaccinated. It is the only way to ensure the safety of ourselves and those around us. It is also the only way to make a return slowly but surely to what we knew as “normal” and stop living life as we have known for the past one and a half years.
"No one from govt has come to visit us or order an enquiry into my wife's death.I still curse myself for persuading my wife to take the vaccine.I thought it would save us from the virus, but it killed her".
The govt is not monitoring adverse events from vaccine nor releasing data pic.twitter.com/pcJv9cqUYW
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) June 28, 2021
ZyCov-D Proposed As World’s First DNA COVID Vaccine
With the Delta Variant setting its wave globally, ZyCoV-D, India’s first Plasmid DNA Covid-19 vaccine, is in the running for an Emergency Use Authorization from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Vaccine maker Zydus Cadila, which already has anti-Covid treatments on the market, claims to have conducted the largest clinical trial in India so far at over 50 centres, with over 28,000 volunteers ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old.
According to the firm, with its 66.6 per cent effectiveness for RT-PCR positive patients in the interim study, ZyCov-D has already demonstrated solid immunogenicity, tolerance, and safety profile. It went on to say that no moderate instances of Covid-19 were seen in the vaccination arm after the third dose was administered, indicating a 100 per cent effectiveness for mild illness.
What is Zydus’ approach?
By mid-August, the business intended to be manufacturing 10 million doses each month, according to managing director Sharvil Patel. “We are currently only focusing our efforts on making sure we can make doses available for India,” Patel said in a virtual news conference. If the injection is approved, it will become the country’s sixth vaccination to be approved for use.
Patel added that data on immunogenicity for the adolescent children subgroup would be submitted in the next four to six weeks.
The pharmaceutical company has also provided data on a two-dose regimen for the injection.
What are DNA vaccines?
ZyCoV-D, if authorized, will be the world’s first DNA vaccine, according to Zydus, since it uses a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s genetic code – DNA or RNA – to trigger an immune response against the virus’s spike protein.
How are DNA vaccines Different from mRNA vaccines?
In contrast to the viral vector vaccines or inactivated vaccines like Covishield and Covaxin, DNA and RNA vaccines trigger an immune response by using a portion of the virus’s genes.
The distinction between DNA and RNA vaccinations is that the latter is passed on to a different molecule known as messenger RNA. The DNA vaccination also uses a tiny electrical pulse to convey the message to the cell.
DNA and RNA vaccines are less expensive than standard protein vaccinations. They are praised for their efficacy and capacity to be produced more quickly. Because DNA and RNA vaccines rely on genetic code rather than a live virus or bacterium. They may theoretically be made more widely available.
According to research published in the medical journal Frontiers in Immunology in 2019, “preclinical andclinical trials have shown that mRNA vaccines provide a safe and long-lasting immune response inanimal models and humans.”
According to WHO, DNA vaccines have a variety of potential advantages over traditional methods, including activation of both B and T cell responses and improved vaccine durability.
Is ZyCov-D needle-free?
A needle-free injectable method is reported to be used to deliver ZyCoV-D. (NFIS). In most NFISs, a jet of fluid is accelerated to a high enough speed to penetrate the skin through a tiny diameter nozzle. The vaccination may have a greater acceptance rate among youngsters who are afraid of needles, according to Sharvil Patel, managing director of Cadila Healthcare.
The three doses of Zycov-D should be given on days 0, 28, and 56, according to Zydus Cadila. The firm is, however, working on a two-dose vaccination.
According to the company’s information, the vaccine candidate may be stored for a long time at two to eight degrees Celsius and for a brief time at 25 degrees Celsius.
What does the Government have to say about the indemnity of the Vaccine?
The Government is still deliberating whether vaccine makers should be indemnified, as Pfizer and Moderna have asked. While a final decision is still pending, key authorities have stated that there is agreement.
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