The Union health ministry, on June 29, issued fresh guidelines on COVID-19 surveillance in the country saying that sewage or wastewater surveillance should be carried out in states and samples from large outbreaks should be subjected to whole genome sequencing.
The guidelines come in the wake of fresh surge in coronavirus infections being reported from parts of the country over the last six weeks.
In a letter written to the health secretaries of the states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote that there should be random screening of 2 percent of all international passengers coming to India using RTPCR.
The specimen from the positive samples should be mandatorily sent for genomic surveillance, he stressed.
The letter also said that all healthcare facilities should report influenza-like illnesses to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and district surveillance office would be responsible to analyse the data and a proportion—5 percent- of such ILI cases should be tested through RTPCR.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
As per the guidelines, monitoring of severe acute respiratory illnesses in district hospitals and in selected tertiary care hospitals is a must and the data generated through the measure has to be shared with the Centre by the state IDSP units.
Using the data generated by the states in the event of early detection of unusual events in the community such as large outbreaks, unusual clinical presentation of cases, mortalities, state or district rapid response teams should carry out outbreak investigation, the Centre has said.