Convalescent plasma therapy may go off Indian protocol for COVID-19: ICMR

PM Modi urges citizens to follow precautions during upcoming festive season

By Banjot Kaur
Published: Tuesday 20 October 2020

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was far from over, Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned the country October 20, 2020.

Not following COVID-appropriate behaviour like using masks, mantaining physical distance and ensuring hand hygiene during the upcoming festive season could lead to loss of the hard-fought gain of decline in daily cases, he said.

Convalescent plasma (CP) therapy could be taken off from Indian protocol for COVID-19, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava said in a weekly press meet earlier during the day.

A multicentre study supported by ICMR had said in September that CP therapy did not really help beat COVID-19.

“The largest trial on plasma therapy has been done in India…We have had discussions at the national task force. We are further discussing in the Joint Monitoring Group. This may be taken off from the national protocol. That is the discussion ongoing. And, more or less we are reaching towards this decision,” Bhargava said.

Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), declined to comment on the fact that India had passed its peak of the pandemic. A government-appointed panel comprising experts from the Indian Institutes of Technology, Christian Medical College-Vellore and the Indian Statistical Institute had stated this October 18.

“While in most of the states and Union territories, the numbers are showing a downward trend, there are states where cases are rising. So, there is no scope of letting the guard down,” Bhushan said.

“We will have to maintain comprehensive testing. We must ensure cases are tested, isolated and contacts tracked and traced. Until and unless we keep on doing more of the same in an efficient manner, we will not be in position to sit back and relax,” he added.

Bhargava added that even when a vaccine would be out, the public health measures, as enumerated by Bhushan, would have to be in place.

Bhushan was asked again as to whether he believed that the peak was indeed over. “They are people of science and we look at every modelling study carefully. But they also warned that though numbers are going down, the trend may reverse if we drop our guards. For us, that is the key message,” Bhushan said.

The recent World Health Organization Solidarity Trial showed that four repurposed dugs —hydroxychorloquine, remdesivir, interferon-B and lopinavir — did not help in treating COVID-19 patients.

“These are interim results. However, we find these drugs are not performing as we had expected. The discussion is going on and we would issue an advisory according to the decision arrived at,” Bhargava said.

Bhushan also clarified on the prime minister’s October 19 statement about digital health IDs and COVID-19 vaccination. “The digital health IDs as envisioned under the National Digital Health Mission would not be necessary to be eligible for vaccination. If an identified beneficiary for vaccination does not have a digital health ID, s/he can show any other identity proof issued by the government,” he said.

He also informed that the ministry had received more than 7,000 suggestions on the National Data Health Mission’s data management policy to ensure data privacy and data security. “We will make necessary amends according to those suggestions,” the secretary said.

Bhushan was also asked about reports that COVID-appropriate behaviour had been given a passe during electioneering in Bihar. “An MoHFW team has been dispatched to the state to see to it that people follow all precautions and assist the local administration in this regard,” he said.

Two state ministers, one media person and a senior IPS officer have succumbed to COVID-19 in Bihar during the last two weeks.

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