“Test, Track, Treat” in tackling COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Ravi Chaturvedi

You can survive tough situations and even turn them to your advantage.. ,” said Bernie Siegel, an internationally recognized expert in the field of cancer treatment and holistic medicine. It seems Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Health and Family Welfare Minister is trying to turn tough situations confronting the country due to the prevailing pandemic of COVID-19 to advantage.   

COVID-19 has been the most challenging part of the life of Dr. Harsh Vardhan. His strategy to embark upon the COVID-19 containment programme is “Test, Track, Treat.” Kudos to the Minister as he is also dwelling on the future mass national health mission of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, leading towards universal health care. On the bigger canvas, the goal is to make India a global model of ‘Health for All’.

Talking about COVID-19, Dr. Vardhan said, “The current level of outbreak is showing that hospital admissions of COVID-19 cases have come down. Moreover, the number of tests being offered continues to be high. A big part of the credit goes to people practicing precautions of wearing masks and observing social distancing. The pivotal role has been played by following precautions. Last but not the least, the number of tests being offered continues to be high.”

However, he struck a note of caution when he said, “Different states implement different measures for containment, and the proportion of people following preventive precautions differs in different places. All this makes it difficult to forecast when new cases will cease to occur.”

The policy of effective containment, aggressive testing with contact tracing and standardized clinical management protocols based on a holistic standard-of-care approach has paid rich dividends in the case fatality rate (CFR) by keeping the mortality rate well below the global average.

Researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts estimate that a fast-tracked vaccine development process could come up with a successful antidote of virus in the market in approximately 12 to 18 months.

The much-awaited vaccine against COVID-19 is very much on the Government of India’s radar too. Vaccine trials are being fast-tracked and hopefully the trials of India-made vaccines would be completed by the end of this year with emphasis to know the efficacy of the vaccine.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), human clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine have been initiated with approximately 1,000 volunteers in the exercise for each of the two indigenously developed vaccine candidates. Since India is one of the largest vaccine producers, it is the country’s “moral responsibility” to fast-track the vaccine development process.

The ICMR has already made headway by roping in Bharat Biotech where priority will be to provide vaccines to the Government of India at an affordable and subsidized rate.

The Serum Institute of India all set to begin human trials soon and is hoping to have the AstraZeneca vaccine available by the year-end. While in Hyderabad, clinical trials of Covaxin are already in advanced stages of vaccine production. Zydus Cadila stepped its efforts of ZyCoV-D clinical trials to determine the dosage to be administered to COVID-19 patients. Efforts are also underway to reduce the time required to get the vaccine into the market.

Dr. Vardhan in his optimistic note said, “It is expected that if the vaccine trial results are good, we could be ready to use the vaccine by the first quarter of 2021.”

Dr. Harsh Vardhan knows well, “Tough situations build strong people.”

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