During an interactive session through video conferencing WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that till now, around 28 vaccine candidates for covid-19 are under trial, and of which 5 are in entering phase, 2 and over 150 candidates are in pre-clinical trials around the globe.
She said, “India, as a whole, has a low testing rate compared to some of the countries, which have done well like Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and even the US States is testing a huge number of people. So we need to have some benchmark and every public health department needs to have benchmarks on what is the rate of testing per lakh or per million, what is the test positivity rate.”
“The moment your test positivity rate is above 5 per cent, you know that you are not testing adequately,” she said.
Swaminathan added that without an adequate number of testing, combating the coronavirus is like “fighting fire blindfolded, so we have to test, test and test.”
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, on 3 August 6, 61,892 samples were tested and the total number of tests carried out stands at 2.08 crore. India’s population is 138 crore.
The number of tests being conducted in India is not adequate if the COVID-19 test positivity rate is above five percent.Governments also need to constantly monitor the availability of beds, quarantine facilities, ICUs, and oxygen supplies in district hospitals.
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She said, “So there is a set of 8 to 10 indicators that the government needs to keep a close watch on. And you can ramp up or ramp down based on what you are seeing on the ground.” She further said that the virus has spread to every country in the world and there is clear evidence that it “established community transmission”.
“We know that lockdowns are temporary measures or a temporary measure which reduces the spread because it prevents people from getting closer together and the idea of the lockdown is to buy time for the government to put in place the system needed to tackle the virus,” the WHO official said.
About the ongoing vaccine trials, she said the WHO has issued guidelines on it and if the efficiency rate of the vaccine is 70 percent, and then it is considered to be a good one.
Stressing on the need for rapid, fair, and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines to worldwide populations, Swaminathan said by the end of 2021 it is aimed to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification.
She expressed that in the next few weeks, all the 194 member countries of the WHO need to come together and plan on the way they want to follow for the equitable and fair distribution of vaccines and other products that are being developed for COVID-19.
India is among the 92 Gavi eligible countries which will get the vaccines from this facility.