Daily cases jump to 18,855 just days after 8-month low; Centre asks states to inoculate frontline workers from Feb
Dr Reddy's Laboratories on Friday said it expects Russia's COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V to be launched in India through Emergency Use Authorisation by March this year
India has added 18,855 fresh COVID-19 cases in a span of 24 hours, a jump from the previous day's count of 11,666, with Chhattisgarh alone adding 6,451 cases because of a data reconciliation process, the Union Health ministry said on Friday.
However, the tally of active COVID-19 cases in the country maintained the downward trend dropping to 1,71,686 while the national cumulative positivity rate has fallen to 5.50 percent, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. The active cases are just 1.60 percent of the total infections reported in India.
India's caseload per million population is one of the lowest when compared globally and stands at 7,768, it said. "The count is much higher for countries like Germany, Russia, Italy, Brazil, France, the UK, and the USA," the ministry added.
India's cumulative recoveries have surged to 1,03,94,352. A total of 20,746 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours.
The country's cumulative tests for detection of coronavirus infection has crossed 19.5 crore (19,50,81,079)with 7,42,306tests being conducted on Thursday. "The national cumulative positivity rate has fallen to 5.50 percent," the ministry said.
It said 17 states and UTs have cases per million lower than the national average (7,768).
Till 8 am on 29 January, nearly 30 lakh (29,28,053) beneficiaries have received anti-coronavirus shots under the countrywide COVID-19 vaccination exercise, it said. The 29,28,053 beneficiaries include 1,87,485 from West Bengal, 2,94,959 from Uttar Pradesh, 88,467 from Tamil Nadu, 2,57,833 from Rajasthan, 50,977 from Punjab, 1,06,583 from Kerala, 2,86,089 from Karnataka, 1,62,616 from Gujarat and 48,008 from Delhi, it said.
In a span of 24 hours, 5,72,060 healthcare workers were vaccinated across 10,205 sessions. The ministry said 52,878 sessions have been conducted so far.
Uttar Pradesh accounts for the maximum share of vaccinated beneficiaries followed by Karnataka and Rajasthan.
Frontline workers to get COVID jab from first week of Feb
The Union Health Ministry on Friday asked all states and Union territories to initiate vaccination of frontline workers against COVID-19 from the first week of February. Vaccination of healthcare providers that began on 16 January to continue simultaneously, the ministry said in a letter to states and Union territories (UTs).
The letter mentions that the required doses of both vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — have been allocated to the states and UTs, and further augmentation will be made through subsequent releases.
India has started its vaccination programme in three phases. Phase one included inoculation of healthcare professionals and frontline workers, who come in direct contact with the population necessitated by their work. The healthcare workers are being inoculated in the first trench of phase 1 of the drive.
EU regulator backs AstraZeneca jab
The European Union's drug regulator on Friday recommended the bloc approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for use on all adults, as concerns grow around the world over the effectiveness of different jabs against new strains of COVID-19.
The announcement from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) paves the way for a third vaccine to be approved for use in the EU, following the jabs made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
But it adds another twist to the increasingly bitter row between Brussels and British-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca, which has admitted it will only be able to deliver a fraction of the doses promised to the EU.
That has come as a huge blow to Europe's already struggling rollout while setting the EU on a collision course with former member Britain as they jostle for AstraZeneca's limited supplies.
In a sign of the growing tensions, the EU on Friday released a redacted version of its contract with AstraZeneca, while announcing a mechanism that could allow it to reject the export of vaccines made on European soil.
There is also controversy over the jab within the EU itself, with the EMA saying it was suitable for adults of all ages, but Germany's medicines regulator advising it should not be used on people over 65 of age due to insufficient evidence that it works.
And beyond Europe, scientists are concerned that the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa may elude some vaccines, considered crucial to ending a pandemic that has killed close to 2.2 million people worldwide.
American biotech firm Novavax said Thursday that its vaccine showed an overall efficacy of 89.3 percent in a major British clinical trial, and was highly effective against the variant first detected there. But other results showed it offered significantly less protection against the South African strain.
Pfizer and Moderna have said their vaccines are effective against the variants.
And in the EU, Hungary became the first member state to approve the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, a week after it also broke ranks with Brussels by issuing a provisional permit for Russia's Sputnik V jab.
The Chinese "know the most" about COVID-19, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, adding: "When I choose I will want the Chinese vaccine".
Janssen, Novavax vaccines claim promising results
A single-shot vaccine developed by Belgium-based Janssen is 85 percent effective in preventing the most serious coronavirus symptoms, according to data from mass trials released by the American giant Johnson & Johnson owned pharmaceutical company on Friday.
It said the latest tests carried out in several countries also showed the vaccine was 66 percent effective overall at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19.
The UK has pre-ordered 30 million doses of the vaccine, which would need to be approved by the MHRA for its deployment alongside other vaccines already approved for use such as Pfizer/BionTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Moderna.
"These topline results with a single-shot COVID-19 vaccine candidate represent a promising moment," said Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson's chief scientific officer.
The 85 percent efficacy rate in preventing the most severe cases "will potentially protect hundreds of millions of people from serious and fatal outcomes of COVID-19," he said, adding that it offers the hope of helping ease the huge burden placed on healthcare systems and communities.
Meanwhile, a vaccine produced by American firm Novavax also claimed positive results against the UK virus strain. Novavax has become the first immune dose to definitively confirm protection against the new variant of the deadly virus which was detected in the UK late last year.
A late-stage clinical trial involving over 15,000 people in the UK found that the vaccine produced by American firm Novavax is 89.3 per cent effective in preventing coronavirus and offered 85.6 per cent protection against the new British strain of COVID-19, which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible.
A smaller, separate trial also showed that it was about 60 per cent effective against the South African variant, despite concerns that this strain may not respond to vaccines.
The Novavax vaccine also requires two doses, like the other vaccines being administered to the most vulnerable groups.
While Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on technology that has not been used in previous vaccines, the Novavax jab uses a more traditional method of recreating part of the spike protein of the virus to stimulate the immune system and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures like the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs.
NVX-CoV2373 contains a full-length, prefusion spike protein made using Novavax's recombinant nanoparticle technology and the company's proprietary saponin-based Matrix-M adjuvant.
The purified protein is encoded by the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] spike (S) protein and is produced in insect cells. It can neither cause COVID-19 nor can it replicate. It is stable at 2 degrees Celsius to 8 degrees Celsius (refrigerated) and is shipped in a ready-to-use liquid formulation that permits distribution using existing vaccine supply chain channels.
Dr Reddy's eyes to launch Sputnik V jab in India in March
Dr Reddy's Laboratories (DRL) on Friday said it expected Russia's COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V, under phase 3 trials being conducted by the city-based drug
maker, to be launched in India through Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) by March this year.
DRL partnered with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) in September to conduct the clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine and for its distribution rights in India.
Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, was registered by the Ministry of Health of Russia and became the world's first registered vaccine against COVID-19 based on the established human adenoviral vector platform.
DRL said it will import some quantities of the vaccine from Russia besides getting them from domestic firms that have a tie-up with RDIF for manufacturing it in India. He, however, did not divulge the pricing strategy for the vaccine. On the efficacy of Sputnik V, DRL said the interim efficacy on 22,000 of the subjects was showing a result of 91.4 percent.
With inputs from agencies
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