All vaccines against Covid-19 are primarily disease-modifying and do not prevent infection, the chief of the Indian Council of Medical Research Balram Bhargava said on Thursday.

“All Covid-19 vaccines, whether they are from India, Israel, United States, Europe, United Kingdom, or China, are primarily disease-modifying,” he said at the media briefing on India’s Covid-19 situation. “They do not prevent infection. The precautionary dose is primarily to mitigate the severity of infection, hospitalisation, and death.”

At a press conference, Bhargava urged citizens to wear masks and avoid mass gatherings both before and after inoculation. He noted that earlier strains of the coronavirus, as well as the ones circulating now, spread through the respiratory tract.

On December 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country’s vaccination programme will be opened to children over the age of 15 from January 3. He also said that a “precautionary dose” will be administered to healthcare workers and those over 60 years with co-morbidities from January 10.

Bhargava noted on Thursday that guidelines for Covid-19 treatment remain the same for all strains.

In response to a question, the ICMR chief said that the government will issue clear-cut recommendations on whether or not the precautionary dose of the vaccine needs to be the same as the first two doses.

Bhargava said that the government has held a series of meetings with the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation since December 28. “We are analysing all the data that is available in terms of which vaccine can be given…whether it is going to be the same one or it is going to be a different one,” he said.

Centre writes to eight states for action against “sudden surge”

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written the letter to the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Jharkhand in this regard. The official has urged them to increase testing, strengthen preparedness of hospitals and ramp up vaccination.

At the press briefing, VK Paul, the chief of the country’s Covid-19 task force, said that fourteen districts in the country are reporting a high positivity rate between 5% and 10%, NDTV reported. He noted that the Omicron variant is making rapid headway in the country.

Meanwhile, Joint Secretary, Union health ministry, Lav Agarwal said that Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Karnataka and Gujarat are emerging states of concern in terms of the spread of Covid-19. He said that these states are witnessing an increase in weekly cases and positivity rates.

Agarwal’s statement comes amid a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases in large cities, particularly in Delhi and Mumbai. While Delhi on Wednesday reported an 86% rise in Covid-19 cases as compared to the previous day, Mumbai registered an 82.2% jump from the previous day’s count.

The health ministry official said that about 90% of the country’s adult population have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 63.5% of the eligible population have received the second dose. A total of over 143.83 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country till now, he said.