India passes 10 million COVID-19 cases, works on vaccine rollout plan
But the milestone comes as trends in recent weeks show a significant decline in both new infections and deaths after a peak in September.
Senior health officials said the slowdown in the pace of the pandemic should not be taken for granted and all safety protocols must be practised as the government worked overtime on a vaccine roll-out plan.
The country’s health ministry said 27,022 new infections were reported since Friday, taking total COVID-19 cases to 10,004,893. Fatalities stood at 144,789 with 338 new deaths.
India has reported less than 30,000 new cases daily since December 14 and less than 400 deaths daily since December 12, according to Health Ministry data.
But an overwhelming proportion of the country’s 1.3 billion people are still susceptible to the virus.
“Things can change and escalate rapidly,” India’s COVID-19 task force chief Vinod Kumar Paul said at a weekly briefing, giving the example of the current situation in some European nations.
India’s government is making preparations to vaccinate about 300 million people, including frontline health workers and adults above 50 years of age, in an initial phase from January to August.
Three vaccine candidates have sought emergency authorization from India’s drugs controller. Government officials said a decision on one or more candidates was expected in the coming weeks.
After an initial assessment, the developers and manufacturers of two of them have been asked for more data, Paul said at Tuesday’s briefing.
These are the Astra Zeneca-Oxford University candidate being produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India and another developed by Hyderabad-headquartered Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Six other vaccine candidates are undergoing human trials in India. These include three being developed by Indian pharma companies with US-based collaborators and Russia’s Gamaleya National Centre’s Sputnik V being tested in India by Dr Reddy’s Lab.
A panel of highly competent experts were currently considering all aspects of the candidate vaccines that had applied for emergency authorization for safety and efficacy following global standards.
“You must have faith in our institutions,” Paul said against the backdrop of reports that people were wary of taking the vaccination.
The government also issued a public advisory saying taking of the vaccine would be voluntary but was advisable for everyone including those who had recovered from COVID-19.
India runs one of the largest immunization programmes in the world under which more than 26 million newborns and 29 million pregnant women are vaccinated every year.
The programme’s mechanisms are being strengthened and boosted to effectively deliver the Covid-19 vaccine to a much larger population, the advisory said.