The Centre is hopeful of a positive outcome from the final round of discussions currently underway with Zydus Cadila for its COVID-19 vaccine for children, Karnataka Health Minister K Sudhakar said on Sunday after a meeting with Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya here in the national capital. Sudhakar, who discussed children’s vaccination and other state initiatives over a breakfast meeting with the Union minister, said the second clinical trial of a nasal vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech has been completed and the third one is expected to be done by November-December.
Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Krishna Ella was also present at the breakfast meet. At the meeting, Sudhakar urged Mandaviya for the Centre’s support to upgrade 250 primary health centres (PHCs) in Karnataka under the National Health Mission (NHM).
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sudhakar said, “I had a lengthy discussion with the Union minister about children vaccination. He (Mandaviya) informed that the government is having a final round of discussion with Zydus with regard to its COVID-19 vaccine for children. He said he was hoping for a positive outcome soon.” He said he also discussed with the Bharat Biotech chief about the status of the nasal vaccine. “It was informed that the second clinical trial of this vaccine has been completed and the third clinical trial will be over by the end of November-December,” Sudhakar said, adding that Ella said the company has a capacity to manufacture 20 crore doses of the vaccine a month.
At the meeting, the Karnataka minister also sought the Centre’s support to upgrade the existing PHCs in the southern state under the NHM. He said there are about 2,500 PHCs in the state. The state government has set aside a budget to upgrade 250 PHCs in the current fiscal and it wants the Centre to bear the cost for 250 more this year, he added.
It will cost about Rs 5-7 crore for each PHC, which will be upgraded with better infrastructure and staff facility. It will also house a wellness and health centre and an ayush kendra as well as accommodation facilities for the staff. The number of doctors will be enhanced from one to three, while that of beds will be increased from six to 12, Sudhakar said. This concept of a health centre is new and can be replicated across the country, he said, adding that a detailed presentation on this will be made to the Union minister on October 8 in the presence of the chief minister.
Sudharkar said Mandaviya is scheduled to visit Karnataka on October 9-10 and is likely to participate in a few state programmes. On the vaccination status against Covid in the southern state, he said the first dose has been administered to over 80 per cent of the eligible population of 4.98 crore, while the second dose has been given to 37 per cent of the beneficiaries so far.
In September, the state administered 1.48 crore vaccine doses, the highest in a month. “At the same speed, we will cover the entire eligible population by December 31,” Sudhakar said. He, however, said the vaccine doses are yet to be administered to “10-15 per cent” of the eligible population and the government is planning an outreach programme to create awareness and address the misconceptions about the vaccines.
North Karnataka districts, especially Kalburgi, Bidar, Raichur, Koppal as well as Bellary, are lagging behind in the vaccination rollout, whereas Bengaluru Urban has achieved 100-per cent vaccination of the first dose and is ahead in terms of administering the second dose, Sudhakar said. On the restrictions imposed on people visiting the state from Kerala and Maharashtra, he said, “Since the (Covid) positivity rate is higher in the two neighbouring states, we have kept stringent rules for those travelling to Karnataka. They should not only be vaccinated but must also carry an RT-PCR certificate. Otherwise, we are not allowing them (to enter the state).” These norms continue to be in place despite pressure from the two states for relaxations, he added.
On the preparations to handle a probable third wave of Covid, the minister said, “We need to watch during November-December. Since the number of people vaccinated against the disease will increase by that time, there will not be a serious impact if a third wave hits unless there is a new mutant variant which is quite different from the existing four variants.” .