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India prepares for future COVID surge as cases inch up

Infections have started rising again and experts warn of another big jump around October, India’s peak festival season. Federal and state governments have said they are more prepared this time around.

August 31, 2021 / 12:43 PM IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16. (Representative image)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16. (Representative image)

India’s health infrastructure proved inadequate when COVID-19 cases surged in April and May this year, leading to tens of thousands of deaths as hospitals ran out of oxygen and beds.

Infections have started rising again and experts warn of another big jump around October, India’s peak festival season. Federal and state governments have said they are more prepared this time around.

Here are some numbers shared by the government in parliament as of July or early August:

HOSPITAL BEDS

* Dedicated hospitals to treat COVID patients have jumped 27 times to 4,389 from April last year. More than 18,000 other centres have been set up mainly for less-serious patients.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

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.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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* Oxygen-supported beds rise eight fold to 416,947.

* Total isolation beds jump to 1.8 million from 10,180 in March 2020.

* ICU beds rise to 124,598 from 2,168 in March 2020.

* Testing capacity jumps to more than 2 million samples a day from 30,000 in April 2020.

* The health ministry has supplied about 45,000 ventilators to government hospitals across the country.

MEDICAL OXYGEN

* The federal government and its ministries are setting up a total of 1,573 PSA oxygen-generation plants, although fewer than 300 plants had started by early August.

* Total number of medical oxygen carriers has gone up by 225 to 1,244 since March 2020.

PAEDIATRIC WARDS, MEDICINES

* Almost all states are setting up special paediatric wards as experts warn unvaccinated children could be vulnerable to any new mutations in the virus.

* Some states are also stocking up on anti-viral drugs such as Remdesivir.

* India is also trying to vaccinate a big majority of its 944 million adults with at least one dose before another COVID wave. More than 52% of its adults have been partially vaccinated so far.
Reuters
first published: Aug 31, 2021 12:43 pm
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