Vaccine no magic bullet, says WHO as Russia begins inoculations; India deaths near 1.4 lakh, active cases lowest in 136 days

FP Staff
·9-min read

Haryana health minister Anil Vij tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Saturday, days after receiving the first dose of an experimental vaccine candidate.

Though Vij had not received the required dosage needed to build immunity to the coronavirus, and his case is not suitable to judge the efficacy of the vaccine, the report came on a day the WHO warned countries that a vaccine is no magic bullet to the virus that has killed over 15 lakh people and infected over 6.6 crore people across the world.

The WHO remark was directed at Russia €" which Saturday began inoculating thousands of doctors, teachers, and others in high-risk groups with its Sputnik-V jab even as phase III trials are still not complete.

The comments were also directed at other countries, including Bahrain which recently became the second country after the UK to allow emergency usage of the mRNA vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

Meanwhile, India, which is the world's second worst-hit country by the virus, saw its fatalities inch closer to 1.4 lakh on Saturday.

However, despite the surge in deaths, India cases continued to fall as the country on Saturday reported 4,09,689 active COVID-19 cases, the lowest in 136 days, the Union health ministry said.

The total active cases were 4,11,133, on 22 July, the ministry added.

The total caseload rose to 96.08 lakh with 36,652 new cases on Saturday, while the national recovery rate rose to 94.28 percent with a total of 90,58,822 COVID-19 patients having recovered so far.

India's present active caseload comprises 4.26 percent of the total positive cases, and new recoveries have led to a net decline of 6,393 in the total active cases, the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said that for the past eight days, the daily new recoveries recorded in the country have been more than the daily cases.

 

Additionally, PTI quoted Mumbai municipal commissioner IS Chahal as saying that the city's COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen to five percent for the first time since March.

When the virus outbreak began, this rate was 35 to 36 percent (which means 35 to 36 percent of tested samples were positive for the infection), he said in a statement.

"COVID-19 test positivity for the last ten days looks promising but we should not be complacent and should not lower our guard," the commissioner warned.

Vij received only one dose of COVAXIN, clarifies Bharat Biotech as doubts emerge

The report of Vij, testing positive for coronavirus a fortnight after he was injected with a dose of COVAXIN, a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, raised concerns over its efficacy Saturday. The vaccine candidate, being developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, is currently undergoing its third phase trial in India.

However, Bharat Biotech took to Twitter to allay the concerns, saying clinical trials are based on a two-dose schedule, given 28 days apart. The vaccine efficacy will be determined two weeks after the second dose, the statement added.

COVAXIN has been designed to be protective two weeks after volunteers receive the second dose.

"The phase 3 trial is a double-blind study where volunteers have a 50 percent chance of receiving either vaccine or placebo," the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker said.

Stressing that experts would know better about how the COVID-19 vaccine works, Vij told PTI over the phone: "I was told that antibodies start to develop after the second dose, which is administered after 28 days of getting the first shot. And full antibodies are developed 14 days after the second dose is given. So, the complete cycle takes 42 days. In between, there is no protection."

Vij, 67, had offered to be the first volunteer in the phase three trial for COVAXIN, the indigenous potential vaccine being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

He was administered the dose on 20 November at the Civil Hospital in Ambala Cantonment.

"I have been tested Corona positive. I am admitted to the Civil Hospital Ambala Cantt. All those who have come in close contact to me are advised to get themselves tested for corona (sic)," tweeted Vij, who is also the state's home minister.

Following the reports of Vij testing positive for COVID-19, the Union Health Ministry also stepped in to say that COVAXIN is a two-dose anti-coronavirus vaccine and that he was given only the first dose.

"The antibodies against the infection build up in a human being only after a specific number of days pass after the second dose of the vaccine is taken. This is a two-dose vaccine. The minister in question has taken only one dose of the vaccine.," the ministry said in a statement.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain hoped the Centre will take cognisance of the "doubts raised about the efficacy of the vaccine and that it will be completely safe and effective".

Adityanath directs officials to ensure safety of vaccine storage spots 'as that of EVMs'

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials to increase storage capacity for vaccines, when they become available, as he virtually equated the security for the vaccines with that of electronic voting machines.

At a meeting at his official residence, he directed officials to increase the cold storage capacity to 2.30 lakh litres by 15 December, according to an official statement.

Adityanath also said that cold chain facilities will be arranged at each district and division.

"All security arrangements should be made to ensure its availability. The safety of the vaccine storage spots should be ensured in the same manner as that of the electronic voting machines," the chief minister said.

He also directed officials to ensure that healthcare workers are trained in large number to administer vaccines.

 

State-wise details

 

The toll due to COVID-19 rose to 1,39,700 on Saturday, with the 512 new deaths being reported in a span of 24 hours in the country, the data updated at 8 am showed. The COVID-19 case fatality rate was recorded at 1.45 percent.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a cumulative total of 14,58,85,512 samples have been tested up to 4 December with 11,57,763 samples being tested on Friday.

"The number of daily new cases in the last 24 hours is 36,652. 42,533 cases recovered and discharged in the last 24 hours," the health ministry said on Saturday.

"The rising recoveries have also improved the recovery rate to 94.28 percent today. The total recovered cases stand at 9,058,822. The gap between recovered cases and active cases is nearing 86.50 lakh and presently, stands at 8,649,133," the ministry said.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August and 40 lakh on 5 September. It went past 50 lakh on 16 September, 60 lakh on 28 September, 70 lakh on 11 October, crossed 80 lakh on 29 October and 90 lakh on 20 November.

The 512 new fatalities include 127 from Maharashtra,73 from Delhi, 52 from West Bengal, 29 each from Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, 20 from Punjab, 19 from Haryana, 15 from Chhattisgarh and 13 from Karnataka.

A total of 1,39,700 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 47,599 from Maharashtra followed by 11,834 from Karnataka, 11,762 from Tamil Nadu, 9,497 from Delhi, 8,628 from West Bengal, 7,877 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,020 from Andhra Pradesh, 4,882 from Punjab and 4,049 from Gujarat.

In terms of recoveries, the health ministry said that 78.06 percent of the new recovered cases were reported from 10 states and UTs €" Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh.

Joe Biden plans low-key presidential inauguration

US President-elect Joe Biden has said the presidential inauguration on 20 January will not be a "gigantic" event, but something closer to what the Democratic convention was like, with a lot of virtual activity across America and an emphasis on safety due to the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Biden said he expected to be sworn in on 20 January on the platform already being constructed on the steps of the US Capitol, but plans to avoid the crowds that typically gather on the National Mall and along Pennsylvania Avenue to view the ceremony and parade that attracts millions of people.

"My guess is there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, but my guess is you'll see a lot of virtual activity in states all across America engaging even more people than before. That's in train now and I'm not in a position to give you an example of exactly what it will look like," he said when asked about the inauguration planning at a news conference on Friday in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

"But, I promise you, it'll be available either virtually or in-person for many and my guess is, there will still be a platform ceremony, but I don't know exactly how it's all going to work out. The key is keeping people safe," he said.

Biden, 78, suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states.

"We are in discussion with the House leadership and the Senate leadership as to what they plan for the inauguration, particularly those 2,00,000 spots they control. But I think you're going to see something that's closer to what the convention was like than typical inauguration," he said.

Biden said that his first and foremost objective was to keep people safe but also allow them to celebrate, to celebrate, and see one another celebrating.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 2,73,000 people in the US and cases and hospitalisations are surging as the winter months approach.

With inputs from agencies

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