79.39% vaccination in Thane, 64.25% in Palghar on Day 1

Thane: A total of 1,829 people out of 2,300 registered beneficiaries have got the COVID-19 vaccine doses on the first day of the inoculation drive in Thane, as per revised figures issued by the district administration. District Medical Officer Manish Renge in a release late Saturday night said 79.39 per cent of the registered beneficiaries got vaccine shots on the inaugural day.

Earlier, Renge had said 1,740 (75.63 per cent) out of the 2,300 registered people got the doses on Saturday.

The vaccination was carried out at 23 centres, he said.

District Civil Surgeon Kailash Pawar said the vaccination process had to be suspended for about half-an-hour on Saturday due to technical issues in the Co-WIN app, but was later resumed.

The Maharashtra government on Saturday evening announced suspension of the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the state till Monday owing to problems in the Co-WIN app.

The app has been created by the Centre for managing registration for the inoculation.

In neighbouring Palghar, a total of 257 out of 400 registered beneficiaries were given the vaccine on Saturday, achieving a target of 64.25 per cent, an official release from the district administration said.

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40-50 million Covid vaccine stockpiled by SII, India to get most of it

(This story originally appeared in on Dec 29, 2020)

NEW DELHI: India will initially get most of the 40-50 million ‘Covishield’ vaccine shots stockpiled by the Serum Institute of India (SII), since exports would require the World Health Organisation’s pre-qualification, which is likely to take around a month after regulatory approval.

The Pune-based vaccine manufacturer SII is expects to recieve the emergency use authorisation for the vaccine in next few days and the stockpiled doses of ‘Covishield’ are being augmented every week, its chief executive Adar Poonawalla said.

Poonawalla said the roll-out of the vaccine can be expected in January. “We will get some good news this new year…All the data has been submitted and we must respect the process as regulators are evaluating data,” Poonawalla said, underlining approvals are expected in the UK and India almost simultaneously.

TOI had reported on Monday that authorities in India have found the data submitted by SII “satisfactory” and are likely to grant emergency use authorisation in a matter of days. SII plans to produce 100 million doses by March 2021 when its third facility becomes operational and this will allow it to reach 300 million doses by July.

“Once we get regulatory approvals in a few days, it will depend upon the government to decide how much they can take and how fast,” Poonwalla said. He also added that while the vaccine will be priced at around Rs 1,000 in the private market, it will be sold at a far lower price to the government which will buy in bulk and ensure immunisation of a majority of people against the deadly infection.

As per the Covid-19 vaccination plan drawn by the government, around 30 crore ‘priority’ population including healthcare and frontline workers, people above 50 years age and those below 50 but with co-morbidities will be inoculated in the first phase, likely to be over by July. While Covishield is a two-dose vaccine, this would translate into a demand of around 60 crore doses for the first phase.

While Poonawalla said supplies are expected to ease from August when other manufacturers are also likely to ramp up production and start supplies, the government is hopeful that more than one vaccine will be approved for emergency use by end of January. In fact the government expects some four-five vaccines to recieve approval and availability to improve from March.

SII is also into an agreement to supply 200 million doses of the anti-Covid vaccine to COVAX – the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility – of which India is also a part. “There will be plenty of vaccine to go around Covax countries. Initially, we may give most of the volumes to India. We have said we would give 50% of everything we make to India and Covax,” Poonawalla said.

SII also launched on Monday its Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine Pneumosil priced at $3 per dose for the public market and little over $10 per dose in the private market. The vaccine provides protection against 10 variants of pneumococcus bacteria that causes pneumonia, meningitis, ear, and blood infections in children.

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Covid-19 resurgence: Case for faster vaccination

There has been a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases over the past fortnight with many states seeing an increase, pointing to the risk of resurgence and the need for much faster inoculation. The government has allowed private hospitals to participate in the vaccination drive starting today, which should help. A look at the numbers and what could help:

New infections & fatalities have risen in the past two weeks

Maharashtra, Kerala are responsible for 75% of the rise

Seven states are showing a definite uptick

Some states beginning to show an uptrend

Top 33 districts accounted for 75% of country’s daily cases*
14 districts from Maharashtra showed an upward trend — Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Buldhana, Washim, Wardha, Yavatmal, Satara, Raigad.

Almost all Kerala districts (in top 33) except Kasargod showed a fall in average daily cases.

Other districts with rising cases in the past week are Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Indore as on February 27 (100+ cases, 7-day rolling average).

How to check spread – vaccination and prevention

How to keep spread under check?

  1. As economic activity normalises, people as well as enforcement getting lax in mask use, social distancing
  2. Focus on enforcement of social distancing and masks
  3. Special focus on around 15 districts in Maharashtra
  4. Special attention to poll-bound states

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1st batch of 2.64 lakh Covishield doses reaches Delhi’s central storage facility

NEW DELHI: The first batch of Covishield vaccine containing 2.64 lakh doses reached Delhi’s central storage facility at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital (RGSSH) on Tuesday amid high security, officials said. An official at the hospital said 22 boxes, each containing 1,200 vials of the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine, were delivered to the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Each vial of 5 milliliters has 10 doses, he said.

A SpiceJet flight carrying the vials landed at the Delhi airport around 10 am on Tuesday, four days ahead of the launch of a nationwide drive against the coronavirus. Thereafter, the Delhi Police formed a “green corridor” to safely transport the vaccine to the hospital, the Delhi government’s largest COVID-19 facility.

“The truck carrying the vaccine arrived at the hospital around 3:10 pm,” a source said.

A special cold storage facility has been created at RGSSH to store the vials.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI Airport) Rajeev Ranjan said adequate security arrangements have been made at the storage site, and PCR vans will also cover them in their patrolling plans.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahadra) Amit Sharma said, “We have deployed the personnel at the storage area of the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital.”

Officials said three-layer security – CCTV cameras, Delhi Police and hospital’s own security staff – is in place around the storage facility at RGSSH.

From RGSSH, the vaccine will be transported in a special vehicle under heavy security to the vaccination centres.

The Delhi government has identified 89 sites in the national capital, including 40 government and 49 private hospitals, for the first phase of the immunisation drive meant for about three lakh healthcare workers.

The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Sadarjung Hospital, LNJP Hospital, GTB Hospital, Apollo Hospitals and Max Hospital will be among the vaccination centres here.

The vaccination roll-out is expected to be kicked off from the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital On January 16 with a simple ceremony in the presence of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Health Minister Satyendar Jain, sources said.

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.

Covishield vaccine doses will be initially shipped to 60 consignee points from where they would be distributed to various vaccination centres across India, official sources said.

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Clinical trials indicate India’s vaccines will be effective against Covid-19 variants: ICMR

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Dr Balram Bhargava has said interim results of the ongoing clinical trials indicated that the indigenous Covid-19 vaccines would be effective against the mutated virus strains reported from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

A paper on Covaxin’s neutralisation potential against the UK strain has been accepted for publication, he said here on Thursday while addressing an international webinar “Kerala Health: Making the SDG A Reality,”organised by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Kerala.

In the case of the variants from South Africa and Brazil, efforts were on to isolate the mutated virus strains from the samples collected from travellers from these two countries, he said.

The official said the third clinical trial of Covaxin BB152 had been completed as all the 25,800 volunteers involved in the exercise had been administered both the doses.

“The interim analysis report should be out in a week,” he said.

Dr Bhargava pointed out that India was the fifth country in the world to isolate the Covid-19 virus as part of the efforts to develop a vaccine for the pandemic.

With its graded response to the outbreak of Covid-19 right from the beginning, India had successfully kept the spread of the pandemic under control while utilising this period for drastically scaling up the capacity of the country’s medical infrastructure, both under the government and the private sector.

India had from the outset resisted the temptation of going for herd immunity unlike many European countries, including the UK and Italy, and its decision had been vindicated from what happened in the western nations that allowed the pandemic to spread, he pointed out.

As a result, India had not only ramped up its medical infrastructure for domestic use but had also reached the level of exporting vaccines and treatment kits on a large scale, he said.

The webinar series that began on February 17, with focus on the prospects of achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) amid an added challenge posed by Covid-19, is held across five days this month and early March.

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Can our coronavirus vaccine fight new strains? India to test

(This story originally appeared in on Feb 18, 2021)

PUNE: The efficacy of the two Indian vaccines currently in use — Covishield and Covaxin — is likely to be tested against the Brazil and South Africa variants soon, scientists have said.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had announced on Tuesday that Pune-based National Institute of Virology was in the process of isolating and culturing the South African variant in its lab. The NIV has already readied a culture of the Brazilian variant for testing.

“Serum samples drawn from those who have received the vaccines in India will be used in the lab to test if they can neutralise the two variants that recently entered India,” said Dr Samiran Panda, head of ICMR’s epidemiology and communicable diseases pision.

The South African variant is also known as 501.V2. The Brazilian one has been tagged as P.1. So far, India has recorded four Covid-positive cases with the South African variant and one with the Brazilian variant. “It is not necessary that a variant that is more transmissible will turn out to be more virulent. Another question to ask is whether they are associated with rapidly spreading outbreaks,” said Dr Panda.

Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh, director of National Centre for Disease Control, said the South African and Brazilian variants have public health implications.

“For one, the Brazilian variant is believed to be more transmissible and it may have the ability to evade antibodies,” he said. Studies show the South African variant too is more transmissible. Dr Singh did not disclose the locations in the country that reported cases with the mutated versions.

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Two new variants of SARS-CoV-2 not reason for surge in cases in Maharashtra, Kerala: Govt

Two variants of SARS-CoV-2 — N440K and E484K — have been detected in Maharashtra and Kerala but there is no reason to believe presently on the that they are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states, the Centre said on Tuesday.

One of the two variants has also been detected in Telangana.

Addressing a press conference here, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said that 187 people have tested positive for the UK strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the country so far, while six people have detected with the South Africa variant. Also, one person has tested positive for the Brazil variant strain.

“Both the N440K and E484K variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra. In Kerala and Telangana also these variants have been found. Also, three other mutated strains — one each from UK, South Africa and Brazil are already present in the country. But there is no reason for us to believe, on the basis of scientific information, that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” Paul said.

Reporting only detection does not lead to any attribution for a phenomenon on the ground because to relate the occurrence of a virus mutation to change in disease pattern, other epidemiological information and clinical information has to be linked to these mutants, Paul said, adding, “because otherwise these (mutations) happen but they have no influence on the pandemic.”

He said the behaviour of mutations is being constantly and closely watched in the country and 3,500 strains have been sequenced so far.

“When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching the mutants.

“Today, based on the information and as analyzed and understood by a very eminent scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), we would like to underline the fact that we do not see attribution of mutant strains to the upsurge of the infection being seen in some districts. But this is work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility,” Paul said.

The SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) was established in December end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.

Stating that a large proportion of the population is still vulnerable, Paul stressed that COVID appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, hand washing and not getting into mass gatherings should be followed.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that a total of 1,17,54,788 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country till Tuesday 1 pm, with 1,04,93,205 getting the first dose and 12,61,583 being given the second dose.

Bhushan said that 12 states and union territories, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Odisha, have administered first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 75 per cent of the registered healthcare workers, while 11 states and UTs, including Karnataka, Telangana, Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh, have administered the first dose to less than 60 per cent of healthcare workers.

Two states, Kerala and Maharashtra, account for 75 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases in country, and six people have been detected with South Africa strain of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far.

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India can vaccinate 500 million people in 60 days against Covid by allowing private sector: Premji

Wipro founder chairman Azim Premji has asked the government to immediately allow private participation in the country’s vaccination drive against Covid-19 saying that over 500 million people can be vaccinated in 60 days with the involvement of private firms and institutions.

“Deploying and administering the vaccine in large proportion is the key requirement today. Government is doing its best. But I would strongly suggest they should supplement the effort by involving private parties,” Premji told Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a post budget interaction organised by the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

India can take up mass vaccination at a shorter time line at a reasonable cost for people, he said.

“There is a possibility that we can get the Serum Institute to supply vaccines at about Rs 300 a shot. Hospitals and private nursing homes can administer this at the cost of a Rs 100 a shot,” Premji, who is also India’s top philanthropist said.

“If the government was to engage private industry quickly we can achieve a coverage of 500 million people within 60 days as a practicality and it is very important that the government does consider this as a major quick supplement to the effort,” he said.

Nandan Nilekani, Infosys chairman and the first chairman of Aadhaar-issuing authority, last month said India can become a role model on how to vaccinate a billion people at scale, speed and in a trusted manner.

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AstraZeneca: Vaccine may work against UK variant

LONDON: The developers of

AstraZeneca

‘s coronavirus vaccine say the shot appears to work against the variant detected in Britain late last year.

It’s similar to previously reported results by other vaccine manufacturers, including

Pfizer

and Moderna.

Andrew Pollard of Oxford University, which helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine, says the shot also appears to reduce the amount of virus in people infected with COVID-19. That could potentially slow the disease’s spread. The research hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sarah Gilbert of Oxford says it should be straightforward to tweak their vaccine to account for the variant detected in the UK.

She says vaccine manufacturers could quickly insert a new gene sequence from the variant into the virus needed to make the vaccine. Gilbert adds scientists are already in talks with regulatory agencies about how they might quickly authorize any new vaccine. It’s a similar process for seasonal flu vaccines.

Also, researchers are studying the potential effectiveness of the vaccine against the variant that arose in South Africa.

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COVID-19 vaccination drive gets underway in Delhi on day two

NEW DELHI: After administering shots to over 4,300 healthcare workers on the opening day, COVID-19 vaccination teams across the national capital started to give vaccines to more medical staff at various hospitals on Monday.

Officials said that the vaccination drive started at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital at 10 am.

The immunisation drive in Delhi was formally kicked off on Saturday by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from the LNJP Hospital, the state-run facility which offered yeoman service during the pandemic last year.

The exercise was carried out at 81 sites, with nearly an even split of government and private hospitals, including six central government facilities — AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, RML Hospital, Kalawati Saran Children Hospital and two ESI hospitals.

The rest 75 centres, spanning all 11 districts of Delhi, include Delhi government-run facilities, such as LNJP Hospital, GTB Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, DDU Hospital, BSA Hospital, Delhi State Cancer Institute, ILBS Hospital; and private facilities, such as Max Hospital, Fortis Hospital, Apollo Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

In Delhi, a total of 4,319 healthcare workers — 53.3 per cent of those registered — got the vaccine shots on the first day of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on Sunday.

Some people did not turn up for coronavirus vaccination at the last moment, he said, adding that the government cannot ask anyone to compulsorily take the jab.

He also said that the number of vaccination centres in Delhi will be increased from 81 to 175 soon.

Jain noted that a similar trend was observed across the country, with around 50 per cent of those registered getting the jabs on the first day.

The vaccine will be administered on four scheduled days of the week — Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It will not be given on Sunday, and two others days of the week, when other regular vaccination work will be carried out.

So, January 18 is the first working day of the week, since the mega exercise was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi across the country.

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield is being administered at 75 centres, while Bharat Biotech-made Covaxin doses given at the remaining six facilities.

The city government has received in total 2.74 lakh doses of the vaccine so far from the Centre, which would be sufficient to cater to 1.2 lakh healthcare workers, Kejriwal had earlier said.

“Every person will receive two doses, and the Centre has given 10 per cent extra in stock, in case of any mishappening, like damage of vials. There are a total of 2.4 lakh healthcare workers in Delhi who have registered for vaccination, and more doses are expected to arrive soon,” he said.

One “severe” and 51 “minor” cases of AEFI (adverse events following immunisation) were reported among health workers who were administered the coronavirus vaccine in Delhi on Saturday, according to official figures.

An AIIMS security guard had developed an allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine. He was kept under observation of doctors, an official had said on Saturday.

“His current status is not known… 51 others were discharged after some time,” Jain said.

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