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Transition To The Workplace, Vaccines For Children: How India Is Managing COVID-19 In 2022

Posted: 11th March 2022 12:10

Now in its third year, the COVID-19 pandemic sees India more prepared – in terms of planning for logistics and emergencies and having a robust vaccination program in place – though the stress to healthcare infrastructure and business disruption is unavoidable. Companies have also drawn out strategies to ensure business continuity during this extended period of COVID-linked disruption. Declining caseloads and steady resumption of normal activities around the country has seen uptick in domestic travel. Meanwhile, regular international scheduled flights should restart March 27, after a gap of two years. 

COVID Cases In India And Total Vaccination (March 10, 2022)

Date

Active Cases         

Discharged Cases   

Deaths                    

Total Vaccination     

March 10, 2022        

44,488

42,420,120

515,459  

1,795,395,649

How Prepared Are Corporates In India As The Pandemic Continues Into 2022?

Companies across India are now experienced at managing their organizations having gone through multiple COVID crises since 2020. In particular, in states where the COVID outbreaks have been endemic, several firms have strategized for operational continuity and even expanded organization capabilities through digitization. Firms have also developed or customized tools for client servicing, logistics planning, and staff well-being.

Transitions to work-from-home have become efficient and each business has worked out the right hybrid model of offline/online work for their respective areas of operations. Technology-led enterprise ability and functioning is the new normal and digitization will continue to support businesses and consumer industries.

Best Practices For Employers

As we settle into the year, and move past a third wave of COVID-19 led by the Omicron variant, it is important for organizations to hold the panic, note real-time developments with local context, and take necessary precautions. Several traditional companies as well as IT sector firms and start-ups have now agreed to a version of the hybrid workplace model, specifying in-person office attendance for senior management for at least 3-4 days a week. Many companies are planning for about 40-50 percent of their employees to work from the office on any given work day. However, certain roles may well stay fully remote.

Investing in technology infrastructure and software resources relevant to the business scope and cybersecurity will thus remain top priorities for all companies to ensure the hybrid model does not put daily operations and corporate-client information at risk. This is more or less essential given the frequent periods of uncertainty associated with the COVID outbreaks and real-time implementation of area lockdown measures.

Overall, based on the type of company and sector of business, option to stay on a hybrid mode involving work from office and work from home (WFH), that is a fixed location, or work from anywhere (WFA), will bring in much needed flexibility for employees in finance, HR, legal, accounting, and some technology roles.

As the transition to a new normal is underway, HR departments will also need to track staff vaccination records and eligibility for vaccine booster shots, ensure employee access to health insurance, establish a reimbursement policy for work-from-home miscellaneous expenses, and coordinate with office building management policies on disease control measures, such as RT-PCR testing, temperature check, and sanitation requirements.

Frequent outbreaks will affect staff mental well-being and it is advised that companies prioritize open communication, digital check-ins, sharing of fact-based information, and release updates on the disease control and management practices adopted by the organization.

Below we address some frequently asked questions about India’s vaccination program and the launch of the vaccine booster policy.

What Is India’s Vaccination Rate?

As per reporting by the national paper The Hindu, 58.8 percent of India’s estimated total population is fully vaccinated and 70.5 percent have received at least one vaccine dose. As on March 10, 2022, Indian states and union territories that have led in the administration of both vaccine doses are: Jammu and Kashmir (>99%), Himachal Pradesh (>99%), Sikkim (>99%), Andhra Pradesh (99%), Gujarat (98%), and Karnataka (96%) followed by Uttarakhand (95%), Madhya Pradesh (92%), and Telangana (>86%); Delhi is at 82 percent and Maharashtra is at 70 percent.

Previously, as of the end of 2021, the BBC noted that 64 percent of India’s adult population had been fully vaccinated and approximately 90 percent of the adult population had received the first dose of vaccine. (According to World Bank data for 2020, India’s population aged 15-64 was 928,266,848.)

Below, we provide information (dated March 10, 2022, 11:00 IST) from the union health ministry-affiliated Co-WIN website, which tracks COVID vaccine sites, registration of vaccinations, and verifies vaccine certificates.

India’s Vaccination Status (March 10, 2022)

Total Vaccination Doses                 

Sites Conducting Vaccination         

Total Registrations                     

1,794,552,558

50,278

1,049,237,585

Dose 1

968,054,516

Government

49,063

Age 15-17

56,571,029

Dose 2

806,769,299

Private

1,215

Age 18-44

627,979,324

Precaution dose

19,728,743

 

Age 45+

364,687,232

Delhi’s Vaccination Status (March 10, 2022)

 

Total Vaccination Doses               

 

Sites Conducting Vaccination          

31,673,060

1,234

Dose 1

17,322,921

Government

1,140

Dose 2

13,913,454

Private

94

Precaution Dose

436,685

 

Mumbai’s Vaccination Status (March 10, 2022)

 

Total Vaccination Doses                   

 

Sites Conducting Vaccination             

20,281,239

301

Dose 1

10,614,428

Government

222

Dose 2

9,314,470

Private

79

Precaution Dose

352,341

 

What Is The COVID-19 Vaccination Program For Children In India?

Vaccination of children in the age group 15-18 years started January 3, 2022. For such beneficiaries, the national vaccination drive only administered Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin (see government guidelines here, released December 27, 2021).

On March 10, 2022, India’s drug regulator, the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DCGI), approved restricted emergency use authorization for Covovax for children aged 12-17 years, subject to certain conditions. (Covovax is produced by the Serum Institute of India, and based on the technology transfer from Novavax – which was approved by the European Medicines Agency for conditional marketing authorization and granted emergency use listing by the WHO in December 2020.)

In August last year, ZyCov-D was cleared for inoculation of those aged 12 years and above.

What COVID Vaccines Are Available In India?

India is currently using only three vaccines in its national vaccination drive – Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, Covaxin developed and produced by Indian firm Bharat Biotech, and the Russian-made Sputnik V (BBC News). Almost 90 percent of India’s vaccinated population has received Covishield.

Nine vaccines have been approved for use in India:

  • Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation) by Serum Institute of India
    Type of vaccine platform: Non-replicating viral vector
  • Covaxin by Bharat Biotech
    Type of vaccine platform: Inactivated
  • Sputnik V by Gamaleya
    Type of vaccine platform: Non-replicating viral vector
  • COVOVAX (Novavax formulation) by Serum Institute of India
    Type of vaccine platform: Protein subunit
  • ZyCoV-D by Zydus Cadila
    Type of vaccine platform: DNA
  • mRNA-1273 by Moderna
    Type of vaccine platform: RNA
  • Corbevax by Biological E Limited (developed in collaboration with US-based Dynavax and Baylor College of Medicine)
    Type of vaccine platform: Protein subunit
  • COV2.S by Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
    Type of vaccine platform: Non-replicating viral vector
  • AZD1222 by Oxford/AstraZeneca
    Type of vaccine platform: Non-replicating viral vector

There are 14 vaccines in clinical trials in India – BECOV2A (Biological E Limited), NVX-CoV2373 (Novavax), COVOVAX (Novavax formulation) (Serum Institute of India), AKS-452 (University Medical Center Groningen), ZyCoV-D (Zydus Cadila), Sputnik V (Gamaleya), AZD1222 (Oxford/AstraZeneca), Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation) (Serum Institute of India), Covaxin (Bharat Biotech), BECOV2B (Biological E Limited), BECOV2C (Biological E Limited), BECOV2D (Biological E Limited), HGCO19 (Gennova Biopharmaceuticals Limited), and BBV154 (Bharat Biotech).

What Is India’s Vaccine Booster Policy?

India rolled out its booster shots (third ‘precaution doses’ of COVID-19 vaccine) for healthcare and frontline workers as well as for those aged above 60 with comorbidities (list of 20), starting January 10, 2022.

In terms of comorbidities, those eligible above 60 years include patients of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disease (people on dialysis), cirrhosis, cancer, sickle cell disease, and those receiving stem cell transplant, etc. Older adults who have highly compromised immune systems will also qualify for the booster shots. Such persons will need to provide a medical certificate from their doctor as evidence of their comorbidity.

On March 8, 2022, the WHO reversed its previous recommendation, stating now that it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to COVID-19 vaccine booster doses as they provide protection against severe disease and death. This may likely influence the Indian government’s plans on expanding access to booster (precaution) doses.

Has The Indian Government Taken Steps To Manage COVID-linked Disruption To The Economy?

The government closely monitors the delivery and transportation of goods and essential commodities throughout the country whenever restrictions are announced by respective states to combat rising COVID infections. Such restrictions include night and/or weekend curfews to limit physical movement in public spaces.

The government (central and in the states) also issues guidelines so that hospitals – including private sector and nursing homes – set aside specific quota of beds for COVID patients. For example, major private hospitals in Delhi were asked to allocate 40 percent beds for COVID patients during the Omicron-led wave in January 2022.

Supply Chain Support / Helpdesk

Any manufacturing, transportation, distribution, wholesale, or e-commerce company that faces difficulties in transportation and distribution of goods or mobilization of resources, can write to the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) at dpiit-controlroom@gov.in. 

International Trade Support / Helpdesk For Import-export Issues

To resolve challenges faced by exporters and importers related to international trade (like customs clearance delays and banking matters), the commerce ministry had restarted its ‘COVID-19 Helpdesk’ on January 6, amid the third COVID wave. (Reference: Trade Notice No. 29/2021-2022 published by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade here.)

Managing International Travel Restrictions

Resumption Of Regular / Scheduled International Flights

India has announced it will restart regular international flights from March 27, 2022 – after a gap of two years. As with all announcements linked to COVID-19, travelers are advised to pay attention to real-time developments.

Facilitating Limited International Air Travel

Since July 2020, India has reached various air bubble agreements with countries to operate limited commercial flights on specified bilateral routes, besides repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission. The ban on scheduled international commercial flights did not apply to international all-cargo operations and DGCA-approved flights. 

Previously, India had revised guidelines for international arrivals with effect from February 14, 2022, 00.01 Hrs IST, which removed mandatory quarantining and advised 14-day self-monitoring instead.

On February 28, 2022, the Indian government had updated its “List of Countries/Regions in respect of which primary vaccination schedule completion certificate is allowed to be uploaded” on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website: see document here. There are 88 countries now on this list.


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