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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Covid-19 Vaccine Highlights: Covaxin will have advantage over other vaccines on new coronavirus strain, says ICMR DG

Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Oxford Astrazenenca's Covishield granted emergency use by India's top drug regulator.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 4, 2021 8:33:58 am
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the process in GTB Hospital in Delhi.

Coronavirus India Highlights: The World Health Organisation on Sunday welcomed India’s decision giving emergency use authorisation to COVID-19 vaccines, saying it will help “intensify” and “strengthen” its fight against the ongoing pandemic. “WHO welcomes the first emergency use authorization given to COVID-19 vaccine in the WHO South-East Asia Region. This decision taken today by India will help intensify and strengthen the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the Region,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday called DCGI’s emergency approval for 2 vaccines in India a “decisive turning point” for the country’s vaccine development and expressed gratitude to all frontline workers for their “outstanding” work in fighting against the virus. “It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India! This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfill the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion,” Modi said on Twitter.

The DCGI in its presser on Sunday gave nod to the  “emergency restricted”  approval for two vaccine candidates in India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-Astrazeneca’s Covishield. The drug controller said that it is paying close attention to the increasing cases of UK’s Covid-19 new strain in the country and was prioritising its threat while conducting clinical trials. 

India recorded 18,177 new Covid cases in the 24 hours ending 8 am Sunday, taking the total number of infections to over 1.03 crore. Active cases further dropped to  2.47 lakh, while recoveries continued to rise and stand at over 99.27 lakh. A total of 217 deaths were reported on Saturday, the toll currently stands at over 1.49 lakh. Covid-19 testing on the first two days of the new year have been below one million. Only three states reported more than 1,000 cases on Saturday, but Kerala is still reporting over 5,000 cases. With 5,327 new cases on Saturday, Kerala has so far recorded over 7.71 infections.

A dry run to check the best way to administer Covid-19 vaccine and plug loopholes in logistics and training was held across all states on Saturday. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reviewed the process in GTB Hospital in Delhi and said the government would not compromise on any protocol before approving a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. He appealed to people not to be misguided by rumours regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

Live Blog

DCGI approves Covaxin, Covishield vaccine candidates for emergency use; PM Modi hails approval as turning point in fight against Covid-19. 

22:31 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Bharat Biotech vaccine more likely to work against newer strains like UK variant: Harsh Vardhan

With some Congress leaders raising concerns over the grant of approval to Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asserted on Sunday that Covaxin is more likely to work against newer variants of the virus, including the UK variant, and asked politicians not to "discredit well laid out science-backed protocols" followed for approving the jab.

Some Congress leaders, including Anand Sharma, Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, on Sunday raised serious concerns over the grant of approval to Covaxin for restricted use, saying it is "premature" and can prove dangerous.

Responding to them, Vardhan said it is "disgraceful for anyone to politicise such a critical issue." Tagging Tharoor, Ramesh and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yavad, the health minister said in a tweet, "...don't try to discredit well laid out science-backed protocols followed for approving #COVID19vaccines. Wake up & realise you are only discrediting yourselves!"

20:44 (IST)03 Jan 2021
All set for roll-out, just waiting for COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in Delhi: Satyendar Jain

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Sunday welcomed the approval given for emergency use of two COVID-19 vaccines, and asserted that the city government is all set for the vaccination roll-out as soon as any of them arrive.  Interacting with reporters, he said, in the first phase, about three lakh healthcare workers and nearly six lakh frontline workers, totalling about nine lakh, will get the vaccine.

"Drug Controller General of India has approved emergency use of two vaccines. Many congratulations to scientists and researchers who worked day and night to make this possible," Jain said.

"We are all ready with our preparations, from storage to logistics, and yesterday, a dry run was conducted at three sites to assess the preparedness for the vaccination roll-out. Vaccination can begin, soon as the vaccine arrives in Delhi, which we expect in few days," he said. (PTI)

19:35 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Covaxin will have advantage over other vaccines on new coronavirus strain, says ICMR DG

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director Balram Bhargava said that the Covaxin vaccine has the potential to target the new strain. 'New virus variant which is now more than 60% infective & creating havoc in the UK is worrisome. There are 29 patients in India with the same variant for which we should be cautious. We have been able to isolate the new virus very soon,' said Dr. Balram Bhargava on Sunday. He was also quoted as saying by ANI that the National Institute of Virology (NIV) scientists have successfully isolated the new virus strain which will be tested against different vaccines. 'We hope potentially Bharat Biotech vaccine will have some advantages over other vaccines on this new strain because it is a whole virus,' he added.

19:29 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Zydus Cadila gets DCGI nod for phase III trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved conducting phase III trials of the country's first DNA vaccine candidate against COVID-19 being developed by Zydus Cadila, the Department of Biotechnology said on Sunday. The vaccine candidate has been supported by the National Biopharma Mission (NBM) under the aegis of Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), a PSU under the DBT.

"The nation's first indigenously developed DNA vaccine candidate against COVID-19, ZyCoV-D, by M/s Zydus Cadila, has been approved by Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), for conduct of the Phase III clinical trials," the DBT said. Zydus Cadila completed Phase-I/II clinical trials of this DNA vaccine candidate in more than 1,000 participants and "interim data indicated that the vaccine is safe and immunogenic when three doses were administered intradermally", the DBT said. (PTI)

19:28 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Zimbabwe returns to restrictions amid rise in virus cases

In response to rising COVID-19 numbers, Zimbabwe has reintroduced a night curfew, banned public gatherings, and indefinitely suspended the opening of schools. "We are being overwhelmed and overrun," Information Minister Nick Mangwana warned, saying the country's hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity with COVID-19 patients. Zimbabwe recorded 1,342 cases and 29 deaths in the past week, the highest number recorded so far," Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said, announcing the strict measures.

Zimbabwe's 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 0.90 new cases per 100,000 people on December 19 to 1.47 new cases per 100,000 people on January 2. Funerals are now limited to 30 people while other gatherings such as weddings and church services are banned for 30 days. Restaurants and beer taverns have also been closed. The government has postponed indefinitely the opening of schools for a new term that was supposed to start on Monday, January 4.

18:15 (IST)03 Jan 2021
UK PM Johnson warns COVID-19 lockdown may get tougher

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday warned that the current tiered system of lockdown to arrest the spread of COVID-19 may have to be toughened further as the UK grapples with the new strain of the coronavirus. As teachers' unions have been calling for a countrywide closure of all schools for a few weeks due to the rapid spread of the new variation, Johnson insisted that parents should send their children to school from Monday in the areas where they remain open as the threat to young kids from the deadly virus is very small.

However, he admitted that even stricter restrictions for the wider public may be on their way in the coming weeks as the coronavirus cases in the country jumped by 57,725 this weekend, taking the death toll close to 75,000. "Alas, restrictions may be about to get tougher," Johnson told the BBC, when asked about the lockdown.

17:06 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Latest updates on Covid-19 from around the world

  • India grants restricted emergency approval to Covaxin, Covishield vaccine candidates
  • India records over 18,000 new cases, 217 deaths in past 24 hours; total tally over 1.03 crore
  • India's COVID-19 active caseload drops below 2.5 lakh, says Health ministry
  • PM Modi hails DCGI's vaccine approval as 'turning point' in fight against Covid-19
  • Congress leaders raise concern over grant of permission for restricted use of COVID-19 vaccine
  • South Korea says third wave of coronavirus being contained, fewest infections in nearly 4 weeks
  • Thailand sets more restrictions amid COVID-19 second wave
  • UK hits daily virus record, is urged to keep schools closed
  • Australian states reimpose travel restrictions
  • In Somalia, COVID-19 vaccines are distant as virus spreads

16:25 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Premature approval for Covaxin can be dangerous, says Shashi Tharoor

Senior Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor criticised the approval for Covaxin and said it was premature and dangerous. "The Covaxin has not yet had Phase 3 trials. Approval was premature and could be dangerous. @drharshvardhanshould please clarify. Its use should be avoided till full trials are over. India can start with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the meantime," Tharoor tweeted.

15:53 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Kejriwal lauds scientists and doctors after approval to two COVID vaccines

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said that approval for the emergency use of two "made in India" vaccines will give a positive direction to the country's fight against coronavirus. Congratulating the countrymen, Kejriwal saluted the scientists and doctors for the achievement.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on Sunday approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country. "Congratulations to all the countrymen. Approval by DCGI to emergency use of two made in India vaccines will give a positive direction to the country's fight against corona. Salute to the scientists and doctors whose hard work helped us reach here," Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

15:29 (IST)03 Jan 2021
WHO welcomes India's COVID-19 vaccine approval

The World Health Organisation on Sunday welcomed India's decision giving emergency use authorisation to COVID-19 vaccines, saying it will help "intensify" and "strengthen" its fight against the ongoing pandemic. India's drugs regulator has approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country. It paves the way for the roll out of at least two vaccines in the country in the coming days.

"WHO welcomes the first emergency use authorization given to COVID-19 vaccine in the WHO South-East Asia Region. This decision taken today by India will help intensify and strengthen the fight against COVID-19 pandemic in the Region," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region.

According to Khetrapal, the use of vaccine in "prioritised population" as well as implementation of other public health measures will be important in reducing the impact of the pandemic.

"The use of vaccine in prioritised populations, along with continued implementation of other public health measures and community participation will be important in reducing the impact of COVID-19," she added. (PTI)

14:49 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Govt should commence with COVID-19 vaccination after making concrete arrangements: Akhilesh Yadav

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Sunday said the COVID-19 vaccination programme is a "sensitive process", and the government should not to treat it as "cosmetic" event as it is matter of lives of people. Yadav had on Saturday termed the anti-Covid vaccine to be rolled out in the country as a "vaccine of the BJP" and said he would not take the shot, prompting a sharp reaction not only from the ruling party but also from NC vice-president Omar Abdullah.

The fresh remarks by the SP chief come on a day when India's drugs regulator approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, and indigenously developed Covaxin of Bharat Biotech for restricted emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive. (PTI)

14:35 (IST)03 Jan 2021
S.Korea says third wave of coronavirus being contained, fewest infections in nearly 4 weeks

A South Korean health official said on Sunday that a third wave of the novel coronavirus is being contained, as it reported the lowest number of new infections in nearly four weeks with the help of tougher restrictions during the New Year holiday season.

New cases for Saturday numbered 657, much lower than 824 the day before, but bringing the country's total cases to 63,244 with 962 deaths, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

"The latest third wave of coronavirus spread is being contained as a result of expanded COVID-19 testing (recently) and strengthened distancing measures," Sohn Young-rae, a senior health official, told a briefing.

He said the worst for the country seems to be passing, though added it is premature to say the situation has definitely shifted to a decline, given the decreased testing during the New Year holiday and weekends.

14:08 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Mayawati welcomes approval for COVID-19 vaccine

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati on Sunday congratulated the scientists associated with the coronavirus vaccine and urged the Centre to make it available for the poor free of cost.

In a tweet in Hindi, Mayawati said, "The 'swadeshi' anti-Covid vaccine is welcome and congratulations to the scientists. A request to the Central government is that along with all the health workers, if the extremely poor people get the vaccine free of cost, then it will be appropriate."

13:30 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Thailand sets more restrictions amid COVID-19 second wave

Thailand's government held off from ordering new nationwide business shutdowns on Sunday amid a new wave of coronavirus cases but empowered some provincial governors to set their own restrictions and pleaded with the public not to travel. Thailand, which had largely controlled the virus by mid-2020, saw a second wave of outbreaks beginning in December. On Sunday, it confirmed 315 new coronavirus cases, the majority of which are from local transmission, bringing its total to 7,694 cases and 64 deaths since its first case last January. The country also reported its first known case of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus called B.1.1.7 on Sunday, Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said in a post on his official Facebook page.

12:32 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Cong leaders raise concern over grant of permission for restricted use of COVID-19 vaccine

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma on Sunday raised concerns over India's drugs regulator granting permission for restricted use of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine and asked the government to explain why mandatory protocols and verification of data has been dispensed with. India's drugs regulator DCGI on Sunday approved Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin for restricted emergency use. Sharma, who heads the Parliamentary panel on Home Affairs which dealt with the issue at length, said the issue of granting authorisation to the vaccine use needs to be taken carefully as no country has dispensed with the mandatory phase 3 trials and verification of data. As per submissions made before the expert panel, phase 3 trials have not been completed and therefore, the data on safety and efficacy has not been reviewed, which is a mandatory requirement, he said.

12:12 (IST)03 Jan 2021
All risks finally paid off: Poonawalla on DCGI nod

Soon after the DCGI nod, Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO, tweeted, “Happy new year, everyone! All the risks @SerumInstIndia took with stockpiling the vaccine, have finally paid off. COVISHIELD, India’s first COVID-19 vaccine is approved, safe, effective and ready to roll-out in the coming weeks.”

12:03 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Vaccines are safe and immunogenic: DCGI 

The Drugs Controller General of India in its presser stated that the interim data suggested that the vaccines are safe to use. A few pointers from today's presser.

  • The vaccines are safe and immunogenic with three doses when administered intradermally. 
  • For each person, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Oxford Astrazenenca's Covishield vaccines have to be administered in 2 doses. 
  • Apart from these two vaccines, the drug regulator also allowed Cadila Healthcare to conduct its phase 3 trials.
  • All the three vaccines have to be stored at 2-8° C.
11:51 (IST)03 Jan 2021
‘Every Indian proud that vaccines given approval made in India’: PM Modi after DCGI nod

After the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) on Sunday approved the emergency use of both Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for immunisation against Covid-19 in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that every Indian is proud that both the shots are “made in India.” Stating that the DGCI approval shows the “eagerness of our scientific community to fulfil the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” PM Modi tweeted, “It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India! This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfil the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion.”

11:32 (IST)03 Jan 2021
PM Modi hails DCGI's vaccine approval as 'turning point' in fight against Covid-19

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called DCGI’s emergency approval for 2 vaccines in India a “decisive turning point” in the country’s fight against the virus and expressed gratitude for all frontline workers in “adverse circumstances.”It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India! This shows the eagerness of our scientific community to fulfil the dream of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, at the root of which is care and compassion,” Modi said on Twitter.

11:20 (IST)03 Jan 2021
Covaxin, Covishield vaccine candidates granted restricted emergency approval: DCGI

The DCGI in its presser on Sunday gave nod to the  “emergency restricted”  approval for two vaccine candidates in India, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-Astrazeneca’s Covishield. The drug controller said that it is paying close attention to the increasing cases of UK’s Covid-19 new strain in the country and was prioritising its threat while conducting clinical trails.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, which means poorer countries may soon access the shot already available in Europe and North America. The global body on late Thursday said that the decision to issue its first emergency use validation for a coronavirus vaccine "opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine." The UN health agency said its review found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has already received clearance in the United States, Britain, the European Union and a dozen other countries, "met the must-have criteria for safety and efficacy set out by WHO."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked people of the country not to lower their guard even after vaccination, while announcing that the efforts to rapidly deliver a Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccine to sections which need it most are in the final stages. In an address via a video link after laying the foundation stone of the AIIMS in Rajkot, the Prime Minister said: “I used to say earlier, repeatedly: jab tak dawai nahin, tab tak dhilai nahin (do not be complacent till there’s a vaccine). Now the vaccine is on the horizon. It’s a matter of time. But I still want to say: dawai bhi aur kadai bhi (get vaccinated, but take every precaution). We have to get vaccinated, yet remain vigilant. Don’t be under the illusion that there will be no need for restrictions once the vaccine arrives. That’s what the world is saying, that’s what the scientists are saying. Dawai bhi aur kadai bhi should be our mantra for 2021.”

Exuding confidence that the collective effort the country made this year to contain the spread of the virus would again be on display during the vaccination drive, the Prime Minister cautioned against rumour-mongering.

“In our country, rumour mills work overtime. It is possible that rumour mills will be at work once vaccination begins. It is possible numerous falsehoods would be peddled with the intention to show someone in poor light with no consideration of the harm that such activity can cause to the common man.”

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