BJP's COVID-19 vaccine promise in Bihar causes stir; Oxford says trial to continue after death of volunteer

FP Staff
·7-min read

Active cases of COVID-19 in India remained below 10 percent of the total caseload for the past three days suggesting that only 1 in 10 cases are active coronavirus patients, the Union health ministry said on Thursday.

The daily positivity rate has also been maintained at less than five percent over the past three days. There are 7,15,812 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which comprises 9.29 percent of the total caseload, as per the health ministry data.

"Registering another milestone, the daily positivity rate has also been maintained to less than five percent over the past three days indicating that the spread of infection is being effectively contained through focussed strategies and actions of the Centre and the states and UTs," the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party caused a stir ahead of the Bihar Assembly polls by vowing in its manifesto to provide a vaccine free of cost.

Also, despite one of the volunteers for the Oxford University vaccine candidate passing away, the university, stating that an independent review found the vaccine candidate to be safe, has decided to continue with late-stage trials.

The vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 and also known as AZD1222, is considered among the most advanced in the worldwide hunt for a viable vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

Globally, coronavirus cases reached 41,594,317, with 1,137,884 deaths and 30,965,073 recoveries, as per worldometer.

US and India remained the top two countries with most number of case. However, Russia reported the most new cases in a 24-hour-span with close to 16,000 new cases; Belgium followed at second place with over 13,000 cases; India was ranked 12 and the US 27.

The top 10 spots in the list of countries with highest cases were all occupied with European nations, with transcontinental Russia (1), Mexico (6) and Iran (7) being the only exceptions, as the continent battles a second wave.

Spain this week became the first country in western Europe to record more than 1 million confirmed infections, as it struggles to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus. The country of 47 million was among those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic even in the first phase, with more than 34,000 deaths attributed to the disease.

BJP's Bihar poll promise causes stir

The BJP, a junior partner in the current Bihar dispensation and which leads the government at the Centre, caused a stir ahead of the Assembly polls by promising to provide the vaccine free of cost.

The declaration was met with immediate criticism on social media and from the Opposition which pointed out that the vaccine could be the only means to decidedly beat the pandemic and its development, procurement and distribution was under the Central government's purview.

The political party in power cannot and should not take advantage of that situation to advance its political ambitions in poll-bound states, the Opposition stated. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also took a swipe at the BJP stating that one should refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when one will have access to vaccine.

"GOI just announced India's Covid access strategy. Kindly refer to the state-wise election schedule to know when you will get it, along with a hoard of false promises (sic)," Rahul said on Twitter.

Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi also took a dig at the saffron party, saying that while the vaccine is yet to come, it has already become a part of poll rhetoric by the BJP.

"The vaccine is yet to come, but it has already become a part of poll 'jumlas' (rhetoric). Is the central government's responsibility not equal towards people of all states?," she said.

However, BJP IT Cell-in-charge Amit Malviya sought to ward off the criticism with what he called as a "simple" explanation.

"BJP's manifesto promises free Covid vaccine. Like all programs, center will provide vaccines to states at a nominal rate. It is for the state Govts to decide if they want to give it free or otherwise. Health being a state subject, Bihar BJP has decided to give it free. Simple (sic)," he tweeted.

Oxford University says trial to continue

The University of Oxford says the late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in Brazil will continue following reports of a participant's death.

The university said it can't comment on specific incidents but an independent review found no reason to be concerned about the safety of the Brazilian trial.

It said an independent review, in addition to the Brazilian regulator, recommended that the trial continue. The study, published on the pre-print server ResearchSquare', represents the most in-depth analysis of any of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates, going significantly above and beyond any regulatory requirements anywhere in the world.

The Oxford vaccine is being developed in conjunction with the international pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. It is made by taking a common cold virus (adenovirus) from chimpanzees and deleting about 20 pecent of the virus' instructions.

This means it is impossible for the vaccine to replicate or cause disease in humans, but it can still be produced in the laboratory under special conditions. By removing these genetic instructions there is space to add the instructions for the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2.

Once inside a human cell the genetic instructions for the spike protein need to be 'photocopied' many times a process known as transcription.

In any vaccine system, it is these so-called photocopies that are directly used to make large amounts of the spike protein.

Once the spike protein is made, the immune system will react to it and this pre-trains the immune system to identify a real COVID-19 infection. So, when the person vaccinated is confronted with the SARS-CoV-2 virus their immune system is pre-trained and ready to attack it.

India's daily positivity rate continues downward trend, slips to 3.8%

The health ministry revealed that the daily positivity rate is reported to be 3.8 percent.

"The decrease in the daily positivity rate is simultaneously mapped by the falling active cases, which continue to be under 7.5 lakh as on date," the ministry said.

"India's trend of steadily decreasing active cases of coronavirus infections continues and they have sustained below 10 percent of the total caseload for the last three days suggesting only 1 in 10 cases are active COVID-19 patients across the country," the ministry said.

The total recovered cases are close to 69 lakhs and exceed active cases by 61,58,706.

India's daily COVID figures

A total of 79,415 patients have recovered and discharged in a span of 24 hours whereas 55,839 infections were reported during the period. The national recovery rate has progressed to 89.20 percent, the ministry said.

Eighty-one percent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 states and UTs. Maharashtra has contributed more than 23,000 to the single day recovery.

A total of 55,839 new infections were recorded in a span of 24 hours, 78 percent of which are from 10 states and UTs. Maharashtra and Kerala are still reporting a very high number of new cases with more than 8,000 cases each followed by Karnataka with more than 5,000 cases. A total of 702 fatalities have been reported in a span of 24 hours. Of these, nearly 82 percent are concentrated in ten states and UTs.

More than 25 percent of new fatalities reported are from Maharashtra (180 deaths).

The COVID-19 caseload mounted to77,06, 946 with55,839 new infections being reported in a day, while the death toll climbed to 1,16,616 with 702 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Oxford COVID-19 vaccine performing as 'expected', successfully induces immune response, says independent study

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