The ambitious vaccination drive of India got off to a slow start. The initial plan was to vaccinate 250 million people by July this year. Hiccups due to import restrictions placed by America and low amount vaccine doses ordered by the government slowed down the process.
The new vaccination plan by the government is to procure 216 crore doses of vaccine by December 2021. A bunch of indigenous and globally manufactured vaccine are undergoing trials. The government is relying on the availability of these vaccines to vaccinate the people.
In terms of numbers, India is third on the list for the number of people vaccinated. To date, India has administered 18,29,26,460 (182 million) doses of vaccine.
Updates on Vaccine Trials and Production
India is administering the vaccines Covaxin and Covisheild to its citizens. The Sputnik V vaccine was given clearance by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) to be used in the immunisation program. Zycov-D manufactured by the Zydus Cadila could be the next vaccine to hit the markets.
Foreign vaccine manufacturers in collaboration with Indian pharmaceutical companies are conducting vaccine trials. This is being done simultaneously along with the development of indigenous vaccinations. A host of Indian companies are involved in manufacturing vaccines to immunise Indians against the coronavirus.
Bharat Biotech developed the indigenous Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).
In phase III interim trials of the vaccine, it showed 100 per cent efficacy in severe Covid-19 infections. It reported 78 per cent efficacy against mild and moderate cases. Overall, it achieved an interim efficacy of 81 per cent in phase III trials.
The safety and efficacy results from the final analysis will be made available in June. The final report will be submitted to a peer-reviewed publication.
Recent reports indicate that tests conducted by ICMR-Bharat Biotech find Covaxin effective against the Indian and the UK strain of the SARS Cov-2 virus.
Bharat Biotech submitted to the Centre their production plan for the next four months. It is part of the initiative to ramp up the production of vaccines. Dr V Krishna Mohan, the Whole-time Director of Bharat Biotech, conveyed to the government production of Covaxin would be raised to 3.32 crore doses in July. It would produce 7.82 crore doses in August and maintain the same in September.
The DGCI recently granted permission to Bharat Biotech for phase II/III clinical trials on those aged between two to 18 years. Being an inactivated vaccine, it considered being safe. Covaxin is available in 18 states in the country. At first, each dose was priced at Rs 600. It is now providing doses to states at Rs 400.
Bharat Biotech is working on another vaccine for coronavirus. It will be administered in the form of nasal drops. Named BBV154, it is a non-replicable viral vector vaccine. The vaccine is capable of only producing the vaccine antigen.
Serum Institute of India (SII)
The Serum Institute of India (SII) is working in collaboration the Astra Zeneca and Oxford. The vaccine is administered with the name ‘Covishield’ in India. Covishield is a non-replicable viral vector vaccine.
The CEO of SII, Adar Poonawalla told on television that America put an export ban on raw materials required for the manufacture of vaccines. He urged the Biden administration to lift the export ban. He added the blocking of raw materials by the US would delay vaccines in India.
Data from interim trials of Covishield (ADZ122) in the US, Peru and Chile showed the vaccine had an efficacy of 79 per cent when the second dose was given after four weeks of the first dose. The Indian government extended the duration between two doses of Covishield. It increased the duration between doses from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
The SII also submitted its production plan for the next four months to the Centre. Prakash Kumar Singh, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at SII informed the government that SII would produce 10 crores doses in August. The same number of doses would be produced in September.
SII priced each dose of the vaccine at Rs 400. Later, the cost was slashed to Rs 300. It will provide vaccines to the state governments at Rs 300.
The SII is developing another vaccine in collaboration with US manufacturer Novavax. The drug is undergoing phase II/III bridging trials. There is a delay in the rollout of the vaccine due to the export ban imposed by America.
Gamaleya – Dr Reddy Laboratories
Dr Reddy Laboratories partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to conduct clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine. Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology developed the vaccine. The vaccine has a global efficacy of 91 per cent.
Dr Reddy Labs has a target of vaccinating 125 million people in India with Sputnik V. It expects to achieve its target in 8-12 months. The first 36 million doses will be imported from Russia. The rest will be manufactured in India.
Six other Indian pharmaceutical companies will manufacture Sputnik V. The companies – Gland Pharma (252 million), Hetero Biopharma (100 million), Virchow Biotech (200 million), Panacea Biotech (100 million), Stelis Biopharma (200 million) and Shilpa Medicare (100 million)- together will produce 952 million doses.
Sputnik V is administered in two doses. The time gap between the two doses is 21 days. Two consignments of the vaccine landed in Hyderabad. Post testing of the vaccine at the Central Drug Laboratory (CDL), Kausauli; it will be used in the vaccination drive.
The two shots of the vaccine are two complementary vectors. Both are administered through intramuscular injections. The first component of the virus is the adenoviral vector Ad26. The second component is the adenoviral vector Ad5. The vaccine is priced at Rs 995 per dose.
ZyCov-D manufactured by Zydus Cadila is the second indigenous Covid-19 vaccine. It is a DNA type vaccine.
The vaccine is in phase III of clinical trials. It conducted two clinical trials in phase I. 150 people participated in it. Phase II had two clinical trials. The trial was expanded to 1,048 people. The third of clinical trials are underway. 28,216 people are taking part in it.
Biological E Limited
Biological E Limited is manufacturing two vaccines. It will produce the Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. Johnson and Johnson will transfer technology to Biological E for the manufacture of the vaccine.
Alongside the Janssen vaccine, the company will produce its indigenous vaccine. The production of this vaccine will start in September. 7.5 crore doses of this vaccine will be available for use in the country.
Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceutical is working on its indigenous Covid-19 vaccine. The government of India is providing support for the development of this vaccine. It is producing the vaccine using the m-RNA process. It is similar to the vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer.
The success of this vaccine is believed to be a great success for Indian scientists. The vaccine can work on new mutations with slight modifications. It is estimated that ‘HGCoV-9’ will be available for use from September.
Talks with Moderna and Pfizer for the supply of their vaccines were inconclusive. With Moderna and Pfizer not wanting to own liability in case of side effects from their vaccines, the Indian government is not keen on them.
ओमिक्रॉन वैरिएंट के चलते भारत में स्थगित हुई अंतरराष्ट्रीय हवाई यात्रा
कोरोना वायरस के ओमिक्रॉन वैरिएंट के कारण भारत में पूर्व निर्धारित अंतरराष्ट्रीय विमान सेवाएं रोक दी गई हैं। सरकार की तरफ से पहले यह फैसला किया गया था कि 15 दिसंबर से अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानों को शुरू किया जाएगा। लेकिन ओमिक्रोन के खतरे को मद्दे नज़र रखते हुए अब इस फैसले को टाल दिया गया है। यानी अब भारत में 15 दिसंबर से अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानें शुरू नहीं हो पाएंगी। डायरेक्टोरेट जनरल ऑफ सिविल एविएशन की तरफ से कहा गया है कि वो अपने पूर्व के फैसले पर पुनर्विचार करेगें।
— DGCA (@DGCAIndia) December 1, 2021
प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी ने 27 नवंबर को ओमिक्रॉन को लेकर बैठक की थी और इसी दौरान 15 दिसंबर से अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानें शुरू करने के फैसले पर पुनर्विचार करने को कहा गया था। प्रधानमंत्री ने विदेश से आने वाले लोगों की सख्त निगरानी करने की बात भी कही थी। ओमिक्रॉन के चलते हाल ही में सिक्किम ने विदेशी यात्रियों के आने-जाने पर रोक लगा दी है।
पिछले वर्ष कोरोना के चलते एहतियातन देश में नियमित अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानें रद्द कर दी गई थी। हालांकि कुछ समय बाद कई देशों के साथ सीमित हवाई सेवा शुरू कर दी गई थी। ऐसा माना जा रहा था की इस बार क्रिसमस और नए साल की छुट्टियों के मौके पर अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानें फिर से शुरू कर दी जाएंगी लेकीन, दक्षिण अफ्रीका में पाए गए ओमिक्रॉन वैरिएंट के कारण अभी इस पर ब्रेक लगता दिख रहा है।
कई देशों में इस खतरनाक वैरिएंट को लेकर गाइडलाइंस जारी कर दी गई हैं, और इससे बचने के लिए अनेकों ऐहतियात बरते जा रहे है। WHO ने इसे ‘वैरिएंट ऑफ कंसर्न’, यानि चिंताजनक घोषित किया है।
जनरल वीके सिंह ने सोमवार को कहा था कि “अंतरराष्ट्रीय उड़ानों को फिर से शुरू करने के लिए हम पर जनता का जबरदस्त दबाव है”। हम सभी नियमों का पालन कर रहे हैं और सावधानी बरत रहे हैं। बाहर से आने वाले हर व्यक्ति का परीक्षण और जांच हवाई अड्डे पर किया जा रहा है। परिणामों को देखने के बाद ही, उन्हें अनुमति दी जा रही है।
कोरोना वायरस के नए वैरिएंट ओमिक्रॉन के खतरे को देखते हुए केंद्रीय स्वास्थ्य मंत्रालय ने भारत आने वाले अंतरराष्ट्रीय यात्रियों के लिए संशोधित दिशानिर्देश जारी किए हैं। इन दिशानिर्देशों के तहत अब यात्रियों को 14 दिन की यात्रा जानकारी और कोरोना वायरस की निगेटिव आरटी-पीसीआर जांच रिपोर्ट एयर सुविधा पोर्टल पर अपलोड करना अनिवार्य होगा। स्वास्थ्य मंत्रालय के दिशानिर्देशों के अनुसार खतरे की श्रेणी में आने वाले देशों के यात्रियों को भारत पहुंचने पर कोरोना जांच करवानी होगी और जांच का परिणाम आने तक एयरपोर्ट पर ही इंतजार करना होगा। अगर उनकी जांच निगेटिव आती है तो उन्हें सात दिन तक होम क्वारंटीन में रहना होगा और आठवें दिन फिर जांच की जाएगी। इस बार भी निगेटिव आने पर उन्हें अगले सात दिन के लिए खुद अपने स्वास्थ्य पर नजर रखने को कहा जाएगा।
कोरोना वायरस का नया वैरियंट ओमीक्रोन भारत में भी दस्तक दे चुका है। साथ ही साथ ऑस्ट्रेलिया, ऑस्ट्रिया, बेल्जियम, बोत्सवाना, ब्राजील, कनाडा, चेक गणराज्य, डेनमार्क, फ्रांस, जर्मनी, घाना, हांगकांग, आयरलैंड, इजराइल, इटली, जापान, मोजाम्बिक, नीदरलैंड, नाइजीरिया, नॉर्वे, पुर्तगाल, रीयूनियन द्वीपसमूह, सऊदी अरब, दक्षिण अफ्रीका, दक्षिण कोरिया, स्पेन, स्वीडन, स्विटजरलैंड, यूएई, ब्रिटेन और अमेरिका भी ओमीक्रोन के गिरफ्त में आ चुके हैं।
Hypocrisy of Federalism: Reply on Oxygen Related Deaths
On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry reported to the Parliament that no deaths were recorded due to a lack of oxygen across the country during the second wave of the pandemic.
The officials and ministers in eight states also denied fatalities due to the lack of oxygen. Whereas reports indicate that approximately 320 patients may have died in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic due to oxygen shortage.
The report by the Union Health Ministry to the Parliament has triggered massive criticism across the country. It has also prompted some significant accusations against the Bhartiya Janata Party [BJP].
The denial of the officials and ministers of the eight states regarding the same has also triggered a major rebuttal from within their parties, accusing them of aiding the Centre in hiding oxygen-related deaths.
According to a volunteer-driven data collation effort, DataMeet, Media from across 20 states report that there were approximately 619 deaths recorded due to lack of oxygen. However, later the cause of deaths was disputed with other factors that attributed to the fatalities.
The state health minister of Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope also sided with the Centre’s stand of no-oxygen-related deaths.
“As far as Maharashtra is concerned, we have never said that any death due to oxygen shortage,” he said to a local TV channel on Wednesday.
However, in April and May, the shortage of oxygen supply in the state had prompted the Chief Minister, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, to request the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to inspect the proposal of pressing the Indian Air Force to arrange additional oxygen supplies for the state.
A medical board in Hisar- a region in Haryana, had openly established oxygen shortage as a cause of deaths in the region.
Additionally, after an inquiry, 22 patients succumbed to Covid due to the lack of oxygen in Haryana.
According to the reports of DataMeet, figures indicated that approximately 68 deaths took place across the state of Madhya Pradesh due to lack of oxygen.
However, Vishwas Sarang, the medical education Minister, stated, “We received at least 10-12 complaints related to deaths due to oxygen supply disruption. Medical experts found the cause of death was other medical complications, not hypoxia,”
In Goa, between May 10- May 14, approximately 83 patients succumbed to death.
But according to Dr Shivanand Bandekar, the Dean of Goa Medical College and Hospital stated, “We can’t put this as a direct answer. People who come to GMC, they are all referred because we are a tertiary (care) center where criticality is high and most of the patients die because of Covid pneumonia where oxygen is a part of the treatment. So we cannot directly say this (disruption in the oxygen supply) is the reason why they have died,”
However, during the hearing at Goa at the time of these deaths, the state government had admitted that “some of the casualties may have taken place” due to supply disruption.
Within the same hearing, the Bombay High Court had said, “We have long passed the stage of determining whether patients are suffering from the lack of oxygen or not. The material placed before us establishes that patients are indeed suffering and even in some cases succumbing for want of the supply of oxygen, in the State of Goa.”
Officials and ministers of several states like West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh took a similar stand while siding with the Centre on their “no deaths due to Oxygen shortage” statement.
Even though various reports and data reflect a significant number of deaths due to a shortage of oxygen supply within different states, the Center and the state officials have refused to acknowledge them and have denied that these fatalities are attributed to the lack of oxygen supply.
Health Activist Amulya Nidhi from Madhya Pradesh, claims that volunteer groups from across the country have clear case studies and data that report deaths of patients across various states due to a lack of oxygen supply. “If they are so sure about it, they should allow an independent team of experts to probe the matter,” he said.
Why Are people Not Taking Covid Vaccine?
Since the beginning of the Pandemic in 2020, all people have wanted is to find a way back to normal. A way from virtual lives to real, social lives. Being trapped at home with limited movement has been fun for no one. And yet, when a solution is finally being offered, people are hesitant to embrace it. Vaccines are the solution to once and for all immunise us against this virus, but many people fail to embrace the cure. Even though the vaccination reduces risks in exposure to the mutating variants of the Novel Coronavirus, there are people reluctant to take the possibly life-saving shot.
A vaccine race began throughout the world to curb the spread of Covid, India being one of the leaders. Immunisation is proven to be the most successful means to prevent diseases. Still, there is always hesitance that follows with the process. Many reasons cause vaccine hesitancy, but three of the main reasons are inadequate knowledge and fear of side effects, the speed of vaccine development, and rumours and myths.
The biggest fear that prevents people from taking the vaccine is a fear of side effects caused by inadequate knowledge. Many of us might show reluctance in taking the vaccine, fearing the severity of side effects. This tends to happen because most people do not understand how a vaccine works and nudges our bodies to create antibodies in our system to immunise us to the virus.
Many people reason that the side effects make them sick when they have been in perfect health for so long. They believe that it is the vaccine that makes them sick. This cannot be further from the truth. The public needs to be made aware of the workings of the vaccine to promote the vaccination drive around the world.
The other cause for hesitancy is the speed at which the vaccines have been developed. Many people believe that simply because the development speed of Covid immunising shots was quicker as compared to past viruses, corners have been cut in the process. It is essential to know that this is not true as all the procedures have been followed during the development of vaccines. None of them have been permitted for distribution without clinical trials and the approval of the FDA.
The last reason is that of rumours and myths. The rural population, a key demographic in our country, is reluctant to take the vaccine due to a lack of information provided to them. The inadequacy makes them quick to believe in rumours and myths surrounding immunisation, consequently making them reluctant to participate in the process. Reports of death post the vaccine have fanned the rumour mills in rural areas regarding the fatality of the vaccine.
Hesitancy in vaccination can also be seen in another key demographic, women. The proof for this in India is the disparity in men’s vaccination ratios which are starkly contrasting. Rumours and myths surrounding vaccines have led the population to believe that taking the jab affects fertility in women. It is essential to know that vaccinations do not cause infertility in men or women. It is this kind of rumour-mongering that causes fear in people.
Misleading tweets by prominent figures also cause vaccine hesitancy. One prime example is senior advocate Prashant Bushan, whose tweets about the efficacy and safety of covid vaccines were tagged as “misleading” by Twitter.
Misinformation being spread by prominent people is another cause of reluctance in people not taking the vaccine, which must be stopped to defeat the Pandemic.
Many people who have already suffered from Coronavirus also believe that they do not need the vaccine as they are already immune to the disease. This is a falsehood that needs to be cleared as a vaccine prolongs the effectiveness of the immunisation, keeping the person safe for a more extended period.
Vaccines are preventative medicines that allow us to acquire immunity against the virus, preparing our bodies to protect us in case of exposure to the disease. While vaccination may not provide complete safety, it reduces the severity of the infection and the chances of death.
With newer and stronger variants emerging as mutations of the Coronavirus, all of us must be fully vaccinated. It is the only way to ensure the safety of ourselves and those around us. It is also the only way to make a return slowly but surely to what we knew as “normal” and stop living life as we have known for the past one and a half years.
"No one from govt has come to visit us or order an enquiry into my wife's death.I still curse myself for persuading my wife to take the vaccine.I thought it would save us from the virus, but it killed her".
The govt is not monitoring adverse events from vaccine nor releasing data pic.twitter.com/pcJv9cqUYW
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) June 28, 2021
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