KOCHI: Though the recent reduction in Covid numbers brings relief, increased reliance on antigen tests and lack of a mass vaccination drive can prove to be dampeners in the Covid fight, opine experts. High priority efforts are on by the district health officials to bring down the test positivity rate (TPR) below 10%. As on Tuesday, the TPR had reached 15%. While on Monday the TPR stood at 16. 25 per cent. However, over-reliance on antigen tests compared to RT-PCR can cause many Covid-19 positive patients from going undetected. The district is conducting around 15,000 Covid tests and almost 60% of these are antigen tests.
“Antigen test has low sensitivity to antigens, and hence all Covid samples may not get positive results. We may miss nearly 50% of cases, whereas RT-PCR testing is a gold standard here. Wherever symptoms are there, infection needs to be confirmed by RT-PCR testing. If we miss 50% of cases, there is a higher chance for asymptomatic patients to transmit the disease,” said Dr Ramesh Kumar, chief of laboratory services, EI Metropolis Health Services.
According to Rijo M John, health economist, Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), the TPR may go up as the number of Covid tests conducted goes up. “The number of tests conducted district-wise has dropped in the last two weeks. Before the lockdown, more number of tests used to be conducted. Now, this has gone down,” said Rijo.
The slow pace of vaccination drive taking place in the district is another area of serious concern. The priority should be to vaccinate all, before other severe variants of the virus are formed. “The delay and panic among those who have not yet received the second dosage of the vaccine and the slow pace of vaccination among 18-44 age group are all a concern,” said Dr Monu Varghese, pulmonologist based in Kochi.
However, according to district health officials, vaccinations are taking place as per prioritisation. “Vaccination is being held as per availability. Considering the TPR, a special drive is going on at Chellanam. Steps are also being taken to vaccinate bedridden patients. Panchayat-wise list of the bedridden will be collected and vaccination will be given at the earliest,” said an official with the district surveillance team.