In the fifth episode of Sunday Samvaad, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, shared that in the first phase the Government of India has released Rs 3000 crores to states and UTs to battle COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all, except three states/UTs, have utilised the complete grant given to them: Maharashtra has used 42.5 per cent of the grant followed by Chandigarh at 47.8 per cent and Delhi at 75.4 per cent, he stated.
He also shared his personal cell number to alleviate problems of his constituents and urged citizens to maintain social distancing norms during the upcoming festivals, as hat there was the possibility of increased novel coronavirus transmission during winters as it is a respiratory virus and the transmission of respiratory viruses is known to increase during the colder weather
He said that Emergency Use Authorisation for COVID vaccine will depend on clinical trial data generated, with occupational hazard and the risk of exposure to Infection primarily to determine vaccination priority.
He said the government was open to assessing the feasibility of introducing several COVID-19 vaccines in the country as per their availability. Sharing his views on Public-Private Partnership during the pandemic, Dr Harsh Vardhan further said that the present situation demands multiple vaccine partners to ensure maximum vaccination coverage to the Indian population and the use of a single vaccine from a certain company should not be seen through a negative lens.
The Health Minister gave detailed information on the role of Ayurveda in the fight against COVID, ICMR’s upcoming study on cases of reinfection, the selection criteria for vaccination and other critical information regarding the COVID vaccine.
In an update on the rollout of the FELUDA test, Dr Harsh Vardhan said “While I cannot put an exact date on the availability, we should expect this test within the next few weeks.”
On the matter of cases of reinfection, Dr Vardhan stated that though there are sporadic reports of reinfection surfacing in various states, careful analysis of ICMR database reveals that many of these cases have actually been misclassified as reinfections. He added that it is very important to differentiate mislabeled reinfection from actual reinfection. “Actual reinfection would mean a fully recovered person getting infected by a freshly introduced virus in his/her body, belonging to the same or different strain. ICMR is commissioning a study to understand the true burden of re-infected cases. Results will be shared in a couple of weeks”, he said.
Protection of healthcare workers
Expressing personal trauma at the loss of doctors to the pandemic, Dr Harsh Vardhan detailed steps taken to prevent occurrences of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers. States are thoroughly supported in terms of PPE Kits, N-95 masks and HCQ for the protection and prophylaxis of healthcare workers managing COVID cases. AIIMS, Delhi regularly conducts a series of webinars with the State Level Centers of Excellence where guidelines on Infection, Prevention and Control get further disseminated. Training modules have been made available on the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare website as well as iGoT – Deeksha platform on infection, prevention and control practices. He added that the Ministry of Health has also issued guidelines on rational use of Personal Protection Equipment for healthcare workers working in COVID and non-COVID areas of health facilities and in the field.
Rebuts criticism of AYUSH formulations
Answering the criticism surrounding the efficacy of AYUSH formulations in the treatment of COVID-19, Dr Vardhan explained the concept of Salutogenesis and how these formulations target holistic recovery of patients. Pointing to in-depth study of literature and scientific evidence generated from in silico studies, experimental studies, and clinical studies, he said, “Guduchi, Ashwagandha, Guduchi and Pippali combination and AYUSH 64 have a substantial number of studies which prove their immuno-modulatory, anti-viral, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties. These interventions have also shown a good binding affinity with COVID-19 virus in in-silico studies.”
He further informed that scientific studies have been initiated with the aforesaid remedies to assess their impact in the prophylaxis, secondary prevention and management of COVID-19 afflicted cases on the recommendations of the Interdisciplinary Task Force set up by the Government.
Recounting the benefits of Chyawanprash, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that the information available through clinical studies have shown that individuals who consume Chyawanprash regularly for a definite period of time show improvement in overall health status and immunity and while sugar is an essential component, customers can opt for sugar-free versions in the market.