Karnataka Declares Journalists as Frontline Workers, to be Vaccinated on Priority Basis


The Karnataka government on Tuesday decided to treat journalists as frontline COVID warriors and inoculate them on a priority basis. “We will treat journalists as frontline workers and vaccinate them on a priority basis,” Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa told reporters after a special cabinet meeting to control the growing COVID cases in the state.

He, however, appealed to journalists not to cover incidents in a manner that it created fear among people.

“There is a health emergency situation in the state as well as the country. It is the responsibility of the media

to point out flaws and shortcomings but showing one issue continuously will create fear among people,” Yediyurappa

pointed out.

The cabinet decided to import five lakh doses of Remdesivir injection and also one lakh oxygen concentrators.

The Chief Minister also warned those black-marketing Remdesivir drug by colluding with company officials, their agents and middlemen.

The cabinet also decided to appoint ministers to supervise the oxygen and Remdesivir supply, bed availability

and COVID Call centres and war rooms, the Chief Minister said.

According to him, the district in-charge ministers have been asked to camp in their respective district and have

been given full authority to bring COVID cases under control.

“In order to procure more oxygen and Remdesivir drug we are constantly in touch with the Central government,” the Chief Minister said, adding, more number of COVID care centres would be opened in the districts.

Suitable action would be taken to appoint doctors and nursing staff for COVID control, he added.

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India to Receive First Batch of 1,50,000 Doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine Today


File photo of a vial labelled Sputnik V. (Reuters)

File photo of a vial labelled Sputnik V. (Reuters)

Another three million doses of the Russian vaccine are scheduled to arrive this month.

India will receive a shipment of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V on Saturday as the first batch of 1,50,000 doses is on its way to Hyderabad from Moscow. Another three million doses of the Russian vaccine are scheduled to arrive this month.

The flight carrying the consignment of Sputnik V has flown from Russia, according to diplomats based in Moscow and New Delhi, a Hindustan Times report said. The vaccines will be delivered to Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which has joined hands with Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to produce Sputnik V in India.

On April 13, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved the use of Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus in the country. India became the 60th country to approve Sputnik V.

In September 2020, Dr Reddy’s and RDIF entered into a partnership to conduct clinical trials of SputnikV, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and the rights for distribution of the first 100 million doses in India. Later, it was enhanced to 125 million.

The vaccine has been registered in India under the emergency use authorization procedure based on results of clinical trials in Russia as well as positive data of additional Phase III local clinical trials in India conducted in partnership with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.

RDIF has reached agreements with the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country — Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Virchow Biotech — aimed at the production of more than 850 million doses per year.

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18-44 Age Group Will Be Able To Choose A Covid-19 Vaccine: CoWin Chief RS Sharma


People between 18 and 44 years, who become eligible for inoculation on May 1, can choose their preferred vaccines at private centres that will make public the options available with them, RS Sharma, the chairperson of an empowered committee on Covid-19 vaccination, told CNN-News18 in an interview on Thursday.

Till April 30, health care and frontline workers as well as 45-year-olds and above were eligible to get the shot under a central government-sponsored drive. Beneficiaries did not have the option to choose between Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, the two vaccines currently available in India.

“The government centres will continue to vaccinate (beneficiaries with) whatever vaccines they are getting. And obviously if they are giving the second dose, they will also have to ensure that the second dose is of the same vaccine as the first dose. Private centres (where people will pay for the jabs) will declare as to which vaccines they are (using for) vaccinating, and what are the price of those vaccines,” said Sharma, also the chief of India’s CoWin platform that is being used for the inoculation drive.

“The CoWin portal will be able to show the prices and the vaccine types (at private centres),” Sharma added, explaining that this will help beneficiaries choose the vaccines they want.

From May 1, vaccine-makers can sell 50% of what they produce directly to states and private players, while the rest will have to go to the Centre for the ongoing government-sponsored campaign that will remain limited to the 45+ age group, and health care and frontline workers.

Vaccines are free at government centres in the ongoing drive, while one dose costs Rs 250 at private centres. But the 18-44 population will have to buy the vaccines as they get accommodated in the massive drive, even as several states have declared free doses at state government centres.

Those opting for private facilities, however, will have to bear the cost. Serum Institute of India (SII), which makes Covishield in India, has fixed the prices at Rs 300 a dose for state governments and Rs 600 a dose for private hospitals. Bharat Biotech has fixed the prices of Covaxin at Rs 400 a dose for state governments and at Rs 1,200 per dose for private hospitals.

In the interview, Sharma also said the 2.45 crore people between 18 and 44 years who registered on CoWin platform for vaccination — from 4pm on April 28, when the process began, till Thursday morning — will have to depend on the availability of vaccines at the state level to get the jabs. Several states, including worst-hit Maharashtra, has said they cannot inoculate the 18-44 age group immediately due to shortage of vaccines.

“That particular segment of population (45+) for which the government of India is supplying vaccines to the state governments…those vaccinations shall continue as before…for the other group (18-44), vaccination is starting tomorrow (May 1)…State governments, hospitals, entities will continue to come on board depending when they get the vaccines; then they will declare the seats and then people will start getting vaccinated…,” Sharma said.

He added that authorities had two options: to begin the registration of beneficiaries before the May 1 cut-off date or to wait for states and hospitals to procure vaccines. He said the government chose the first because in a “large country like India” not everybody will come on board at the same time.

“My expectation is that tomorrow some states will come on board and some hospitals may also come on board…they will start vaccinating…,” he said. He stressed the everywhere people will not get the vaccines “simultaneously” because that will depend on when “state governments and private centres are able to procure the vaccines and deploy them”.

Sharma clarified that registrations will have no role in prioritising the vaccination process of a beneficiary. Rather, vaccinations will happen on “first come first reserve” basis. “If you are looking at the slots and if you get them reserved for yourself, then your seat is confirmed…it will not operate based on who has registered first,” he said.

In an earlier interview with CNN-News18, Sharma had said registering on the CoWin platform and scheduling an appointment were two different things, adding that those between 18 and 44 years will have to “book their appointments through those facilities” that will vaccinate this age group. “We are actually requesting those facilities also (to register),” he had said on April 22.

“In case they (the facilities) are not doing it (vaccination) for what you call a captive audience, which is an industry group doing it for its employees etc…unless they are doing that, they need to make public the time table. So that people are able to see as to which facilities are available for vaccination,” he had said.

Separately, ahead of the next phase, the government has also clarified that walk-in registration and vaccinations are not allowed for the 18-44 group. At present, the vaccination drive allows on-site registrations, apart from those done through CoWin.

The rush at vaccination centres is expected to increase sharply in view of the move to expand the vaccination programme at a time when the country is reeling from a brutal second wave of infections that is setting grim records every passing day.

India’s vaccination drive began on January 16 for health care workers. It was gradually expanded to accommodate front line workers, and then the population above 60 years and those above 45 years with underlying health conditions, or comorbidities. From April, the comorbidity clause was removed, making all above 45 eligible for the shot. Finally, India became one of the few countries to open the vaccination drive to all adults.

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Dahod’s 71-year-old Jeminiben Nurses Coronavirus Patients with Full Alacrity


The coronavirus pandemic has taken the country in its grip. While people are scared of getting infected through contacts, 71-year-old matron Jeminiben Joshi in the Zydus Hospital in Dahod is different.

Matron Joshi is nursing covid patients without getting intimidated by the fear of infections. People wonder to see the courage of this 71-year-old as even medical staff of the hospital are too scared to come near the patients and are afraid of losing their jobs.

Jeminiben respects all and she works with her fellow staff and patients by wearing smiles on her face. Even at this age, she has no health issues and she wishes to nurse the ailing people till the end of her life.

Jeminiben’s father was a painter in Dahod and he died of cancer when she was just 8 years old. And after this, she lost her mother due to a heart attack. She had seen what such disease does to people, and she was determined to devote her life to the service of ailing people. She passed her SSC examination and then did the course of nursing from Irvin College, Jamnagar.

She started her nursing career as a nurse from a private hospital and then in 1979 she joined the service of the State government. She retired in 2009 and after this she has been working in different private hospitals. And now she has been working as a matron in Zydus Hospital in Gujarat’s Dahod.

Zydus Hospital’s 275 nursing staff are recruited by Jeminiben and even at 71, she is ready to do any work and she has shown this by volunteering to nurse the covid-19 infected patients without any fear.

Unmarried Jeminiben has devoted her entire life to the services of patient care. She is healthy at 71 and people are amazed to see how she performs her works in hospital as well as at her home with full enthusiasm.

Even patients like her attitude and they go back to their home happily. In the hospital she seldom uses lift.

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Now You Can Choose Your Own Vaccine at Private Centres from May 1: Report


A beneficiary receives the COVID-19 vaccine shot, at a Covid-19 Centre in Kanpur on Saturday. (PTI)

A beneficiary receives the COVID-19 vaccine shot, at a Covid-19 Centre in Kanpur on Saturday. (PTI)

The health ministry has reportedly directed that all private vaccination centres will have to declare which jab will be on offer.

Starting May 1, those registering for vaccines can choose their jab at private inoculation centres.

According to an exclusive report by Economic Times, the health ministry has directed that all private vaccination centres will have to declare which jab will be on offer, stocks available and the price they will charge on the CoIN platform.

Prior to this, those who wanted to register for the vaccine could only choose the centre they wanted to visit with no choice for vaccines. India currently administers Covishield and Covaxin.

News18 had earlier reported that getting registered on the CoWIN web portal and taking an appointment to get a jab will be mandatory for those between 18 and 45 years.

“It’s expected that once the vaccination is opened for all adults, there could be a lot of crowd at the vaccination centres. To avoid such a scenario registering on CoWIN portal and making an appointment to get a vaccine will be made mandatory for the new beneficiaries. Walks-in will not be allowed in the beginning so that there is no chaos,” RS Sharma, CoWin Chief told News18.

Registration for vaccination for all those aged above 18 will begin on the CoWIN platform and Arogya Setu App from April 28. The inoculation process as well as documents to be provided to get the vaccination will remain the same.

Those above the age of 45 can still avail on-site registration facility to get vaccinated, they added.

Meanwhile, the centre has written to all states and has advised them to monitor the number of hospitals that have procured vaccines and have declared stocks and price per jab on CoWIN to ensure that adequate stocks are available ahead of vaccination scheduling visibility of slots on the online portal.

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Experts on Covid-19 Second Wave


Amid an unprecedented coronavirus situation in the country, India’s topmost doctors on Sunday urged people to adopt Covid-appropriate behaviour to break the transmission of virus. Quashing rumours doing rounds about “side effects” of vaccines, the doctors appealed all citizens not to fall for false claims and get inoculated as soon as possible. The virtual address was attended by AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, Medanta Chairman Dr Naresh Trehan, Professor and HoD of Medicine AIIMS Dr Naveet Wig and Director General Health Services Dr Sunil Kumar to alleviate fear among citizens on Covid-19 protocol.

Giving an example of Mumbai, the city which on Saturday recorded the lowest daily rise in infections since March 30 majorly due to restrictions enforced, the doctors believe that imposing stricter restrictions to combat the virus spread will help.

Meanwhile, India registered a record 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day, taking it total tally of Covid-19 cases to 1,69,60,172, while active cases crossed the 26-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data on Sunday. The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record2,767 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

In the virtual address shared by news agency ANI, all four doctors suggested steps need to be taken if you have Covid-19 infection or how to save yourself from being infected. Here’s what they said:

Dr Sunil Kumar

– 2020 brought new virus and we were not prepared. Government of India carried its duty responsibly and ramped up testing capability. We must have faith that our government takes concrete and scientific steps with suggestions from doctors, microbiologists, epidemiologists.

– There has been lot of rumour mongering around vaccines. There is no serious side-effect attached to them, rather it is negligible. Vaccine and Covid-appropriate behavior are two things that will help us break the chain.

– Don’t focus so much on news, watch only select news. There is a WhatsApp university going on. Don’t pay attention to it. Follow responsible behaviour. This behaviour has to be followed by you, doctors, society as well as the media.

Dr Naresh Trehan

– As soon as your RT-PCR report comes positive, my advice would be to consult your local doctor with whom you are in touch. All doctors know protocol and will begin your treatment accordingly. Nearly 90 per cent of patients can recover at home if given correct medicines on time.

Dr Naveet Wig

– If we have to defeat the disease, we will have to save healthcare workers. Many of them are testing positive. If we save healthcare workers, they will be able to save patients. If we save both, only then will we be able to save economy. It is linked.

– To link all of this we will have to break the chain, we will have to bring down the number of patients. Our only goal should be to break the chain.

– All district officials must monitor district’s positivity rate and aim to keep it below 1-5 per cent. Mumbai had 26 per cent positivity rate at one point but after severe restrictions, it came down to 14 per cent. Delhi is struggling at 30 per cent. We must impose strict restrictions.

Dr Randeep Guleria

– Remdesivir is not a magic bullet, it is given to only patients who are hospitalised, have moderate to severe disease and whose oxygen saturation is below 93. Don’t misuse Oxygen and Remdesivir. Most patients can recover by isolating at home.

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All You Need to Know before Getting the Vaccine Jab


All citizens over 18 can have Covid-19 vaccination from May 1 after the government made the announcement last week while it also allowed sales of vaccines to private players. The registration process on the government’s CoWIN platform begins on April 28. At present, the government-sponsored drive covers only those above 45 years at designated vaccination sites. As of now, Covishield and Covaxin are the two vaccines that will be available. Imported, fully ready-to-use foreign vaccines like Sputnik V will also become available in the open market later. Those between 18 and 45 will have to buy their vaccines once private sales begin or states buy stocks to vaccinate these people. While prices for end users are yet to become clear, in central government hospitals, all vaccinations will remain free. Some states, too. have made announcements about free vaccination.

So before you decide which vaccine to go for, here’s everything you need to know about Covishield and Covaxin.

COVISHIELD

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, “is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to look more like coronavirus – although it can’t cause illness,” according to a BBC report.

How it works

When a patient gets a jab of the vaccine, it stirs the immune system to start producing antibodies and prepares it to attack any coronavirus infection.

Efficacy

Covishield has overall efficacy of 70 per cent. However, it can be over 90 per cent when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later.

Storage

The vaccine can be safely stored at temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius.

Price

Serum Institute will give Covishield at Rs 400 per dose to states and Rs 600 per dose to private hospitals. The Centre’s procurement price remains Rs 150 per dose.

COVAXIN

It is an inactivated vaccine — which means that it is made up of killed coronaviruses, making it safe to be injected into the body. Covaxin has been developed by Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech and clinical research body Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). “Bharat Biotech used a sample of the coronavirus, isolated by India’s National Institute of Virology. When administered, immune cells can still recognise the dead virus, prompting the immune system to make antibodies against the pandemic virus,” the BBC report said.

How it works

On delivery, the vaccine teaches the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, according to a New York Times report. “The antibodies attach to viral proteins, such as the so-called spike proteins that stud its surface,” it added.

Efficacy

Covaxin has shown a 78 per cent efficacy in the second interim analysis and 100 per cent against ‘severe Covid-19 disease’.

Storage

The vaccine can be stored at 2- 8 degrees Celsius.

Price

Covaxin will cost Rs 600 per dose for the states and Rs 1,200 per dose for private hospitals. The Centre’s procurement price for this vaccine too is Rs 150 per dose.

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Registration of All Adults For Covid-19 Vaccination to Begin in Next 48 Hours on CoWin Platform


The rush at vaccination centres is expected to increase sharply in view of  the move to expand the drive at a time when the country is reeling from a brutal second wave of infections. (Representative image)

The rush at vaccination centres is expected to increase sharply in view of the move to expand the drive at a time when the country is reeling from a brutal second wave of infections. (Representative image)

RS Sharma, the CoWin chief, appealed to beneficiaries to register and book an appointment before turning up to get the jab.

Registration of all adults who want to enroll in India’s massive inoculation drive will begin in the next 48 hours on the government’s CoWin platform, RS Sharma, the chairperson of an empowered committee on Covid-19 vaccination, told News18 in an interview on Thursday.

Sharma, the CoWin chief, appealed to beneficiaries to register and book an appointment before turning up to get the jab. The drive, which began on January 16, allows on-site registrations, apart from those done through CoWin.

The rush at vaccination centres is expected to increase sharply in view of India’s ambitious move to expand the vaccination programme at a time when the country is reeling from a brutal second wave of infections that is setting grim records every passing day.

“We will open the registration maybe tomorrow or day after…for the entire country,” Sharma said.

At present, India’s vaccination drive covers only those above 45 years. On Monday, the government made all adults eligible for the jab from May 1 and also allowed sales of vaccine to private players.

Vaccine-makers can sell 50% of what they produce directly to states and private players, while the rest will have to go to the Centre for the ongoing state-sponsored campaign that will remain limited to those above 45 years. Those between 18 and 45 will get the shots once private sales begin or states buy stocks to vaccinate these people.

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Vaccination Works Incredibly Well, Data Show in Boost to India’s Fight Against Covid-19


Just four out of 10,000 people who were administered both doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and three out of 10,000 recipients of both doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield turned positive for Covid-19 after inoculation, government data showed on Wednesday, indicating that the vaccines available in India have hit the mark against the viral disease.

In absolute numbers, 695 recipients (0.04%) among the 17,37,178 who received two doses of Covaxin and 5,014 recipients (0.03%) of the total 1,57,32,754 people to have received two doses of Covishield — which is manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India (SII) — got the infection after the jabs, the data showed.

The figures exhibiting such low infection rates among vaccinated people come at a time when doubts have been raised over the efficacy of the shots available in India, though experts and scientists have maintained a spontaneous inoculation drive is the only way to battle the pandemic. Wednesday’s data will help dispel the doubts further and deliver a massive boost to India’s fight against Covid-19.

Separately, the Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech released another set of interim findings from clinical trials, showing that the indigenous Covaxin is 100% effective against severe Covid — meaning that those who receive the vaccine are not going to fall seriously ill with the disease. In February, AstraZeneca had said its Covishield vaccine was 100% effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalisation and death.

Taken together, the data show that both vaccines currently in use in India offer full protection against severe disease, a heartening statistic which demonstrates that increasing vaccine coverage will quickly reduce the burden on India’s hospitals and the health care sector that is reeling due to a worrying second wave.

The government’s data on Wednesday also showed that a total 1.1 crore people received Covaxin; 93, 56, 436 beneficiaries got just the first dose, while 4,208 (0.04%) of them turned positive after the shot. In case of Covishield, a total of 11.6 crore people received the vaccine; 10,03,02,745 got just the first dose and 17,145 (0.02%) of them turned positive after receiving the jab.

Experts say no vaccine can claim to have 100% success rate against the disease, but they do stop it in most cases; there are indications from across the globe that they also prevent the severe cases. Chances of a Covid-19 infection after getting both doses — Covaxin and Covishield are two-dose vaccines — are rare, an argument proved correct by India’s Wednesday data.

What experts call “breakthrough cases” are few and far between. They could be caused mostly due to failure in adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour (masking and social distancing) and high exposure to the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes Covid-19.

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J&J to Resume Roll Out of Covid-19 Vaccine in Europe with Safety Warning


Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday it will resume rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe after the region’s medical regulator said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risk of very rare, potentially lethal blood clots.

Europe’s health regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), on Tuesday recommended adding a warning about rare blood clots with low blood platelet count to the vaccine’s product label and said the benefits of the one-dose shot outweigh its risks.

J&J shares were up 2.6%

Use of the J&J vaccine was temporarily halted by U.S. regulators last week after rare brain blood clots combined with a low blood platelet count were reported in six women, prompting the company to delay its rollout in Europe.

J&J said it will adjust the package label on its vaccine to warn of the risk of the rare side effect and provide instructions on how to recognize and treat it. The company said it would resume shipments to the European Union, Norway and Iceland.

”It’s an extremely rare event. We hope by making people aware as well as putting clear diagnostic and therapeutic guidance in place that we can restore the confidence in our vaccine,” J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said during a conference call to discuss the company earnings.

Similar rare blood clot issues were reported with use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Europe.

J&J earlier on Tuesday said it was working with European countries to resume ongoing clinical trials for its shot.

The United States is also reviewing a handful of potential cases of severe side effects in addition to those that led to the pause.

”The outcome of the vaccine review is important for overall global vaccination efforts, given J&J’s vaccine does not have the extreme cold storage requirements of the mRNA vaccines,” said Edward Jones analyst Ashtyn Evans, referring to vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE.

Meanwhile, J&J is working with U.S. regulators to get clearance for its Baltimore-based vaccine production plant, owned by Emergent BioSolutions Inc, and expects feedback in the coming days. Emergent shut down production at its plant earlier this month after manufacturing errors ruined millions of J&J doses in March.

”We are remediating what we need to remediate. We think that will lend itself to a positive outcome,” said J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk during the call. He said J&J ”should know more in the next couple of days.”

Nearly 8 million people had received the J&J vaccine in the United States prior to the halt.

J&J said it would fulfill its commitments to ship 200 million doses in Europe and 100 million in the United States.

The company also said it recorded $100 million in COVID-19 vaccine sales. J&J has said the vaccine will be available on a not-for-profit basis until the end of the pandemic.

An advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet on Friday to address the pause after it delayed making any recommendations in a meeting last week and called for more data.

Johnson & Johnson reported first-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations and raised its dividend payouts to shareholders.

The company said it expects a big improvement in sales from its medical device business in the second quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, when COVID-19 lockdowns took a toll.

J&J slightly raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast and now sees earnings of $9.42 to $9.57 per share, up from its prior view of $9.40 to $9.60 per share.

Total sales rose 7.9% to $22.32 billion, beating estimates of $21.98 billion.

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