Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that the strategy against coronavirus remains the same, irrespective of its variants.
Reviewing the public health response to Covid-19 and progress of vaccination with the Health Ministers of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Delhi in a virtual meeting, he noted that the "B.1.617" variant of Covid-19 has contributed to the rise of cases in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Delhi and advised all the states to regularly send samples to INSACOG labs for tracking of emerging variants of Covid.
Suggesting steps taken by the experts to curb the spread, he said: "The strategy remains the same irrespective of the variants."
Harsh Vardhan also stressed on the continued need to follow Covid appropriate behaviour along with renewed and stringent focus on containment measures for addressing the present surge.
He also advised the states to have a long-term plan to tackle Covid, suggesting they take a proactive role in ensuring the rotation of the health workforce and their regular counselling regarding their duty.
On the common demand from the state Health Ministers to increase the quota of vaccines for their states, Harsh Vardhan explained the factors that have shaped the vaccination policy.
"(As many of) 88 per cent of the fatalities were in the age group of 45+ which prompted us to open the vaccination to that group in a gradual manner. However, states, depending on their own situation, can opt for vaccination of other age groups through direct procurement now. The lack of availability of a second dose has been taken into consideration when guidelines for reserving 70 per cent of vaccines were framed," he said.
He also informed of the monthly production capacity of the vaccines and reassured the states that vaccines will be distributed equitably among them. Production capacity is being steadily ramped up and will touch eight crore doses by May and nine crore in June, he said.
Harsh Vardhan also said that this demand for more vaccines from th state leadership "arouses narrow political passion among the masses which harms the 'Whole-of-government' approach to tackle the pandemic".
The state Health Ministers also requested formulation of a common policy of procurement of vaccines from foreign manufacturers.