As India recorded 36,604 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, as per Union Health Ministry data on Wednesday, the ministry said it never spoke about vaccinating the entire population against the virus.
The nationwide tally reached 9,499,413 on December 2 morning. The number of active cases continues to remain below the five lakh-mark; the number was 4,28,644. So far, 89,32,647 patients have been cured, the ministry data showed.
The country also recorded 501 new cases of COVID-19-related fatalities which pushed the death toll up to 1,38,122.
“I want to make it clear that the government has never spoken about vaccinating the entire country,” said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan at a press briefing. “We should discuss these scientific issues based only on factual information.”
Indian Council of Medical Research Director General Balram Bhargava, on the other hand, said that it may not be necessary to vaccinate everyone in the country.
“Our purpose is to break the chain of viral transmission,” Bhargava said. “So if we are able to vaccinate a critical mass of people and break that virus transmission, then we may not have to vaccinate the entire population.”
The ICMR chief also said that the efficacy of the vaccine was an important factor to consider. “There is a range,” he said. “For someone, it may be 60% effective, for someone else it may be 70% effective. So efficacy is one issue,” he said.
The ministry also sought to dispel doubts about the Serum Institute of India’s vaccine after a volunteer claimed that he had faced “severe adverse effects” after being inoculated during a trial “The adverse event will not affect the timeline of the vaccine in any manner whatsoever,” Bhushan said.
The government plans to vaccinate around 25-0 crore “priority population” – including frontline health workers, elderly population and those with comorbidities – in around six months once the vaccine is available for use.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 is also deliberating on whether people who have already recovered from the disease and carry antibodies need to be inoculated. Bhargava said the matter was under discussion globally and though there was evidence that there may not be any adverse event if those who were infected were vaccinated, it would help the government spare limited doses in the initial phase of vaccination.