The central government on April 30 said it expects deliveries of 1,27,000 oxygen cylinders starting April end to help manage the shortage of oxygen across the country.
Out of the aforementioned oxygen cylinders, 54,000 will be jumbo cylinders while 73,000 will be regular cylinders, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said at the press briefing on the actions taken, preparedness and updates on COVID-19 on April 30.
The central government also said that it has so far placed orders for 200 MT oxygen from SSB Cryogenic Singapore and Abu Dhabi, an order for 1,500 MT of oxygen has also been given to be sourced from abroad.
The government added that efforts are being made to increase the availability of oxygen tankers to more than 2,000, from the existing 1,224 oxygen tankers with 16,732 MT capacity, through conversion of 50% of existing nitrogen and argon tankers & through import of 138 cryogenic tankers for oxygen.
The central government also said that the vaccination drive in the country for individuals aged 18-45 will begin from Saturday and will slowly pick up over time.
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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.
The central government's remarks come at a time when several states have expressed their inability to start the third-phase of the vaccination drive.
"States are coordinating with the vaccine manufacturers. And wherever they have coordinated with them, the drive will begin there, and it will slowly expand," Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said at a briefing today.
Several states such as Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab have said that the third-phase of the vaccination drive may not be rolled-out in the states from May 1 as they have not received doses from vaccine companies. Maharashtra has announced that vaccination for the new group will not begin on Saturday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today said that the state has not received any doses from companies yet, and 300,000 doses of Covishield are expected to come in next 1-2 days.
Other states including Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and West Bengal have also flagged shortage of vaccines, as per reports.
The Joint Secretary added that the government is in touch with states, and it is working to boost production of vaccines to ensure that the inoculation drive progresses smoothly
Addressing the press conference, the Joint Secretary noted that the states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Gujarat have reported a hike in casualties over the past four weeks.
"The increment in daily Covid19 infections since September 2020 has put stress on the healthcare system, Agarwal said.
We have requested all the states to monitor the trajectory of covid19 cases and on that basis, plan the requirement of beds and prepare covid19 facilities, Agarwal added.
AIIMS Director, Randeep Guleria, also present at the briefing reiterated that Remdesivir should be taken only in a hospital setting as per the advise of a medical practitioner and should not administered by patients in home settings or those with mild symptoms.