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“Respiratory Viruses Known To Thrive During Winters,” Warns Health Minister In His Weekly Address, Here Are Other Takeaways

At the fifth episode of his weekly ’Sunday Samvaad’ programme, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan talked about issues like COVID-19 vaccines, new testing techniques as well as the cases of reinfection

Fight Against COVID-19: Five Takeaways From Union Minister Harsh Vardhan’s ‘Sunday Samvaad’
  • Coronaviruses are known to thrive better in the cold weather: Dr Vardhan
  • Expect Feluda test to roll out within the next few weeks: Dr Vardhan
  • Dr Vardhan urged people to follow COVID behaviour ahead of festivals

New Delhi: Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan at the fifth episode of his weekly ’Sunday Samvaad’ programme, urged the people of the country to follow the COVID-19 guidelines ahead of the festival season. Dr Vardhan warned the people to stay away from congregations and diligently follow COVID appropriate behaviour, saying ‘no religion or God says that you have to celebrate a festival in an ostentatious way’. Here are some more important points to note from Dr Vardhan’s address.

COVID-19 Transmission In Winter

Dr Vardhan also highlighted the possibility of increased novel coronavirus transmission during winters as it is a respiratory virus and the transmission of respiratory viruses is known to increase during the colder weather.

These viruses are known to thrive better in the cold weather and low humidity conditions. In view of this, it would not be wrong to assume that the winter season may see increased rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus in the Indian context too, he noted.

The Health Minister requested people to celebrate the upcoming festivals at home, with their loved ones, instead of going out to fairs and pandals.

Also Read: World Bank Praises Efforts To Arrest COVID-19 Spread In Mumbai’s Dharavi

Feluda: The New Testing Technique

Dr Vardhan said that the indigenously developed Feluda paper strip test for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis could be rolled out in the next few weeks.

Feluda paper strip test was developed by the scientists at CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) who estimate that the Feluda kit would return results in under an hour and cost Rs. 500. Dr Vardhan said that based on tests in over 2,000 patients during the trials at the IGIB and testing in private labs, the test showed “96 per cent sensitivity and 98 per cent specificity.”

This compares favourably to ICMR’s current acceptation criteria of RT-PCR Kit of at least 95 per cent sensitivity and at least 99 per cent specificity, he stated.

He added that the Feluda paper strip test has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India for a commercial launch. Updating on the implementation of Feluda tests across the nation, Dr. Vardhan said,

While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks.

Also Read: No Shortage Of Oxygen Supply For Treatment Of COVID-19 Patients: Health Secretary

COVID-19 Vaccines

When it comes to the issue of how the government plans to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine by prioritising target groups in the entire population, Dr Vardhan said,

In a huge country like India, it is critical to prioritise vaccine delivery based on various factors such as risk of exposure, comorbidity among various population groups, the mortality rate among COVID cases, and several others.

Talking about the Emergency Use Authorisation of COVID vaccines in India, the Union Minister said that the issue is being deliberated at present.

Adequate safety and efficacy data is required for emergency use authorisation vaccine approval for ensuring patient safety. Further course of action will depend on the data generated, he added.

Presently, COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of phases 1, 2 and 3 of human clinical trials, the results of which are awaited, he added. Furthermore, he informed that the vaccines currently in trial in India are 2 dose and 3 dose vaccines.

Vaccine by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech require two doses while the Cadila Healthcare vaccine requires three doses. For other vaccines in preclinical stages, the dosing is being tested, Dr Vardhan explained.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explained: What Are The Phases In The Clinical Trials Of The COVID-19 Vaccine?

The minister had earlier said that a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be available by the first quarter of 2021. He also talked about the need to include other novel candidates as COVID Vaccine,

Considering the large population size of India, one vaccine or vaccine manufacturer will not be able to fulfil the requirements of vaccinating the whole country. Therefore, we are open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several COVID-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability for the Indian population.

Dr Vardhan also highlighted the need for massive advocacy for building community sensitisation activities to understand the reasons for vaccine hesitancy and address them appropriately.

Fake News And Misinformation

In his address, the Health Minister also targeted the misinformation and fake news circulating regarding the coronavirus. Dr Vardhan requested people to not share any content related to health and safety without double-checking its accuracy.

He explained that as we learn more about the novel coronavirus and more vaccine candidates start their Phase II and Phase III trials, there is bound to be a lot of fake and incorrect news on social media that is perpetrated by people with vested interests.

Also Read: One Of The Puzzles Of COVID-19 Is The Large Proportion Of People Who Are Asymptomatic: Dr Vincent Rajkumar Of Blood Cancer Journal

Reinfections Of COVID-19

Referring to reports of reinfection surfacing in various states, Dr Vardhan said an analysis by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has revealed that many cases reported as COVID-19 reinfection have been misclassified because RT-PCR tests can detect dead-virus shed for prolonged periods after recovery.

Actual reinfection would mean a fully recovered person getting infected by a freshly introduced virus in his/her body, belonging to the same or different strain. ICMR is commissioning a study to understand the true burden of re-infected cases. Results will be shared in a couple of weeks, he said.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Likely By End Of This Year Or Early Next Year: AIIMS Doctor

Lastly, Dr Vardhan shared that in the first phase, the Government of India has released Rs. 3,000 crore to states and union territories to battle COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all, except three states and UTs, have utilised the complete grant given to them. He said that Maharashtra has only used 42.5 per cent of the grant followed by Chandigarh at 47.8 per cent and Delhi at 75.4 per cent.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.  


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