COVID-19 vaccination drive to begin from 16 Jan for 3 cr people; Bhopal man's death unrelated to vaccine, says Bharat Biotech

In his address at the inauguration of the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention, Modi noted India's image as the 'world's pharmacy', and said it is ready with two locally manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to 'protect' humanity

FP Staff January 09, 2021 21:18:23 IST
COVID-19 vaccination drive to begin from 16 Jan for 3 cr people; Bhopal man's death unrelated to vaccine, says Bharat Biotech

Representational image. AP

India's COVID-19 vaccination drive — "the world's largest inoculation programme" — is scheduled to begin from 16 January, the Centre said on Saturday. The decision was taken in a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a day that the number of people infected by the new virus strain rose to 90 in the country.

In his address at the inauguration of the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention, Modi noted India's image as the "world's pharmacy", and said it is ready with two locally manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to "protect" humanity.

The figures of the nationwide COVID-19 situation stood thus on Saturday: With 18,222 new cases in 24 hours, the total caseload rose to 1,04,31,639, with active cases making up 2.16 percent of it. Meanwhile, 1,00,56,651 patients have recuperated so far, pushing the national recovery rate to 96.41 percent, the Union health ministry said.

The toll climbed to 1,50,798 with 228 deaths in a span of 24 hours in the country, the data updated at 8 am showed.

In Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal, a 42-year-old man's death nine days after being inoculated with Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine raised concerns. However, government health officials said that poisoning was the suspected cause of death but added that the exact cause will be known after the viscera test.

On its end, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech issued a statement saying that the volunteer, Deepak Marawi, was "healthy" during the follow-ups conducted seven days after he was administered the shot.

"The volunteer, at the time of enrolment, had fulfilled all the inclusion and exclusion criteria to be accepted as a participant in the Phase III trial and was reported to be healthy in all the site follow up calls post 7 days of his dosing and no AE’s were observed or reported.

"As per the post-mortem report issued by the Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal that the site received from the Bhopal Police, the probable cause of death was due to cardio respiratory failure as a result of suspected poisoning and the case is under police investigation as well. The volunteer passed away nine days after the dosing and preliminary reviews by the site indicate that the death is unrelated to the study dosing," the statement said.

COVID-19 vaccination drive to begin on 16 Jan for 3 cr frontline, health workers

India will launch its COVID-19 vaccination drive from 16 January, with priority to be given to nearly three crore healthcare and frontline workers.

The decision, the government said on Saturday, was taken at a high-level meeting where Modi reviewed the status of COVID-19 and vaccine preparedness across states and union territories.

"After the detailed review, it was decided that in view of the forthcoming festivals including Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Magh Bihu etc, the COVID-19 vaccination will start from 16th January 2021," it said.

After healthcare and frontline workers, priority will be given to those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, together numbering around 27 crore, a government statement said.

Later, Modi tweeted that India will take a landmark step forward in fighting COVID-19 on 16 January.

"Starting that day, India's nationwide vaccination drive begins. Priority will be given to our brave doctors, healthcare workers, frontline workers including Safai Karamcharis (sanitation workers," the prime minister said.

India had recently granted emergency use authorisation to two vaccines, Oxford's Covishield being manufactured by Serum Institute in India and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. Both vaccines, the statement from the Health Ministry said, have established safety and immunogenicity.

However, the spread of the virus has lessened in a big way in the country as the daily number of new cases has dropped to less than 20,000 from a peak of almost 98,000 in September last year.

However, the overall caseload for India is the second-highest in the world after the US, which has reported more than 2 crore cases so far —almost double of India's cumulative tally.

In the review meeting, Modi was also briefed about the Co-WIN vaccine delivery management system, a unique digital platform that will provide real-time information of vaccine stocks, their storage temperature and individualised tracking of beneficiaries of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This platform will assist the programme managers across all levels through automated session allocation for pre-registered beneficiaries, their verification and for generating a digital certificate upon successful completion of the vaccine schedule.

More than 79 lakh beneficiaries have been already registered on the platform, the statement said.

Bhopal man's death unrelated to vaccine, says Bharat Biotech; activist says consent not taken before inoculation

Bhopal's People's Medical College and Hospital where the trial for Marawi was conducted, told PTI that the deceased, had participated in the
Covaxin trial on 12 December. He died nine days later.

Bharat Biotech's statement added that no adverse reaction was observed or reported in Marawi for seven days after the jab.

"The volunteer passed away nine days after the dosing and preliminary reviews by the site indicate that the death is unrelated to the study dosing. We cannot confirm if the volunteer received the study vaccine or a placebo as the study is blinded," it said.

Madhya Pradesh Medico Legal Institute Director Dr Ashok Sharma said the doctor who performed autopsy suspected that he died of poisoning. However, the exact cause of the death would be known from his viscera test, he added.

"After Marawi's death on 21 December, we informed the Drug Controller General of India and Bharat Biotech, which is the producer and sponsor of the trial," Dr Rajesh Kapur, Vice Chancellor of People's Medical College and Hospital said.

He said Marawi, a tribal labourer, had volunteered for the trial and was examined. "All protocols were followed and Marawi's consent was taken before allowing him to participate," Kapur claimed.

Kapur too said he cannot confirm whether Marawi was administered the vaccine shot or was given a placebo.

"It (the vaccine vial) comes covered and coded. During the trial, 50 percent people get the actual injection while the rest are given saline," he said.

Kapur said Marawi was kept under observation for 30 minutes after the trial as per guidelines before he was allowed to go. "We monitored his health for 7 to 8 days," he added.

Family members of Marawi claimed that when he returned home, he felt uneasy and experienced some health problems. "He complained of a shoulder pain on 17 December. Two days later, he frothed at mouth. He refused to see a doctor saying he would be alright in a day or two. When his condition deteriorated, he was being rushed to hospital but he died midway (on December 21)," they added.

Rachana Dhingra, a Bhopal-based social activist, claimed neither Marawi's consent was taken for participation in the clinical trial nor he was given any proof of his participation in the exercise.

However, the hospital has denied this charge.

Provide coronavirus vaccine free to everyone, Arvind Kejriwal appeals to Centre

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the Centre to provide COVID-19 vaccine free to everyone.

" Coronavirus is the century's biggest pandemic. It is important to protect our people from it. I appeal to the Central government to ensure that everyone gets free vaccine. The expenditure on this will save lots of lives," Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

The Delhi government has already announced that the coronavirus vaccine, whenever it is available, will be provided free to people in the national capital.

"The Delhi government is fully prepared to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccine to 51 lakh priority category persons in the city in the first phase of vaccination. The vaccine will be provided free to everyone on Delhi," Health Minister Satyendra Jain had said last week.

COVID-19 caseload details

According to the ICMR, a total of 18,02,53,315 samples have been tested up to January 9 with 9,16,951 samples being tested on Friday.

The latest 228 fatalities include 73 from Maharashtra, 21 from West Bengal, 17 from Uttar Pradesh, 10 from Delhi, and eight from Tamil Nadu.

The total 1,50,798 deaths reported so far in the country include 49,970 from Maharashtra, followed by 12,134 from Karnataka, 12,208 from Tamil Nadu, 10,654 from Delhi, 9,902 from West Bengal, 8,469 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,127 from Andhra Pradesh, 5,437 from Punjab and 4,335 from Gujarat.

With inputs from PTI

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