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India’s vaccination drive up the need for biomedical waste management

Mint reported on the country’s current capacity 

India’s environment and health authorities are racing to tighten norms to dispose of syringes, needles and other potentially hazardous material, bracing for a tsunami of biomedical waste from mass covid-19 vaccinations beginning 1 May.
“We issued guidelines for waste disposal earlier in January when the government was planning to start covid-19 vaccination. But with all adults covered now, the number of vaccinations will also be more. As we need more stringent and specific guidelines for vaccination waste, we are working on the revised guidelines for a safer environment,” Dr T.K. Joshi, a member of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) task force on pollution and health, said in an interview.
According to the environment ministry, nearly 146 tonnes of bio-medical waste is generated per day in the country due to diagnostic activities and treatment of covid-19 patients; however, there has been no accurate data on syringe disposals. India has already administered close to 140 million covid-19 vaccine doses so far.
“With the opening-up of vaccination for all above 18 years, the volume of infectious waste generated from the vaccination clinics will increase manifold, as will the danger of reuse of the syringes, highlighting the urgent need for appropriate disposal of used syringes. Already the environment (sewage system, lakes, rivers) is overwhelmed with the increased use of biocides (sanitizers, disinfectants and antibiotics) which are aggravating the already severe burden of the invisible epidemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in India,” said Jyoti Joshi, head of South Asia, Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy.
State pollution control boards and pollution control committees have authorized 202 common bio-medical waste treatment facilities to collect and dispose of biomedical waste, including covid-19 waste. Further, there are about 18,178 captive disposal facilities installed by individual healthcare facilities for pre-treatment and/ or final treatment of biomedical waste.

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