Deaths significantly lower in third COVID-19 wave compared to second: Indian govt

The Union government also said that 94% of India's adults have been administered the first dose, while 72% are fully vaccinated.
File photo of a hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic in India
File photo of a hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic in India
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Deaths as against active cases have been significantly lower in the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic than the previous one, the government said on Thursday, January 20, underlining the current surge is not witnessing increase in severe illness or death following high vaccination uptake. Presenting a comparison of the key indices during the second and third surge in India, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on April 30, 2021, there were 3,86,452 new cases, 3,059 deaths and 31,70,228 active cases and the proportion of fully vaccinated people that time was 2%. On January 20, 2022, there were 3,17,532 new cases, 380 deaths and 19,24,051 active cases and the proportion of fully vaccinated people is 72%, he said.

"So it shows that deaths as against active cases have been significantly fewer in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic than the second wave, while the vaccinated population has increased significantly from from the second to third wave. By this we want to tell you that vaccination is effective. The disease remains mild and in moderate levels in fully vaccinated individuals," Bhushan said as he urged those who have not yet taken their first vaccine dose to take the shot and those who are overdue for their second dose to get fully inoculated.

"We track children's data too, 0-19 years age group in 2020 they contributed to 10% of the total cases and 0.96% of total deaths. In 2021, 0-19 years contributed to 11% of the total cases and 0.70% of total deaths happening because of COVID-19. Between 2020 and 2021 there is not much of a difference either in terms of contribution of this age group or in terms of contribution of this group to total deaths," he said.

ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said, "The current surge in India is not witnessing an increase in severe illness and death because of high vaccination uptake. However, we have to remember one point, those with comorbidities should monitor their health and avoid complications."

"To summarise, vaccines prevent death and therefore are a must," he said. He added that the overall test performance in the country is being maintained at a level comparable with the second wave.

NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul drew attention to the fact that there are still about 1 crore people (in the over 60 age group) who are yet to get their first dose and 25% are yet to get a second dose.

"This is unfinished work. 52% children have been covered in the 15-17 years age group, more healthcare and frontline workers should also come forward. Availability is not at all an issue here. 6.5 crore people's second dose is still overdue. But why should it be overdue, everyone should take their second dose. All those who are not fully protected will not only be a danger to itself but others too. We have to accept masks and protect our seniors and the prevention tool here is vaccination and we need to take it in this paradigm," Paul said.

Providing an update on COVID-19 vaccination, Bhushan said 94% of India's adults have been administered the first dose, while 72% are fully vaccinated.

He said 52% of the adolescents in the 15-18 years age group nationwide have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine with Andhra Pradesh topping the list with 91% followed by Himachal Pradesh at 83% and Madhya Pradesh at 71%. "Young people in the age group of 15 to 18 years have actively participated in the vaccination drive," he said.

Also, 61.75 lakh precaution doses have been administered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and those aged 60 and above with comorbidities. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have emerged as states of concern because of rising weekly cases and positivity. More than 11 states and union territories have more than 50,000 active cases of COVID-19 while 13 states and union territories have active cases between 10,000 to 50,000. Number of districts reporting weekly case positivity more than 5% have increased from 335 (in the week ending Jan 12) to 515 (in the week ending Jan 19).

Twelve states and union territories including Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have administered the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 100% of the eligible adult population. On the number of samples being genome sequenced so far, Bhushan said the figure is 1.64 lakh genomes and it is a good number even in comparison to western countries.

Secondly in December, 16000 genome sequencing was done and genome sequence is important in terms of public health response. “It is not beneficial to an individual to know if they are infected with Delta or Omicron because the testing procedure and treatment remains the same,” Paul said. He added that genome sequencing has to be strategic and has to be based on systematic collection of specimens.

"In the world, we are in the number 2 position for genomic sequencing. As the story evolved it was very much driven by science and INSACOG work. It is a tool for public health response, it is a tool for scientific understanding of the behaviour of the virus and it leads us to finding solutions such as the possibility of new diagnostics, new vaccines, efficacy of vaccines," he added. 

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