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Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 22:41
Homegrown Indian vaccine shows 78% efficacy
By Agencies
Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 22:41 By Agencies

A medical worker inoculates a man with the Covaxin COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at a health centre in New Delhi on March 25, 2021. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

NEW DELHI / SEOUL / DUBAI - An Indian COVID-19 shot showed 78 percent efficacy from interim data at preventing mild, moderate and severe reactions to the disease and worked against most variants of the virus as the South Asian nation struggles to contain a record surge across the country.

The inoculation known as Covaxin, a two-shot injection that uses an inactivated or dead form the virus, also showed 100% efficacy at preventing severe symptoms and hospitalizations against the coronavirus, vaccine maker Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the Indian Council for Medical Research, the co-developers, said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The data from final stage trials that enrolled 25,800 participants has yet to be peer reviewed and a final analysis will be available from June, according to the statement.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who last year imposed a strict lockdown on short notice, asked states to avoid shutting businesses as the South Asian nation grapples with a new wave of COVID -19 infections that threatens a nascent economic revival.

At least 22 patients died at a public hospital in India's western Maharashtra state when their oxygen supply ran out after a leak in the tank on Wednesday, a government official said.

India recorded 295,041 new COVID-19 cases and 2,023 more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the caseload to 15,616,130 and the death toll to 182,553, according to data released by the health ministry on Wednesday.

India is now the world’s second-worst hit country, lagging only the US, after reporting more than 200,000 daily new infections for the last six days.

India's federal government Wednesday announced that it has waived off the import duty on Remdesivir, a broad-spectrum antiviral drug, to provide affordable medical care for the COVID-19 patients, officials said.

India's Bharat Biotech has announced to scale up its COVID-19 vaccine capacity to 700 million doses annually, a company statement said Tuesday. 

With over 145 global patents and a portfolio of over 16 vaccines, the company claimed that it has been able to raise capacity in a short timeline, mainly due to the availability of new specially designed BSL-3 facility.

The facility is the first of its kind in India that has been repurposed to manufacture, test and release highly purified inactivated viral vaccines.

Australia

A policeman was reportedly being treated for blood clots on Wednesday in the Australian state of Queensland after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday.

The man, aged 40, had been patrolling the state's COVID-19 quarantine hotels. He was rushed to hospital in the state capital of Brisbane after developing the clots.

Australia's coronavirus vaccine timetable remains uncertain, Secretary of the Department of Health Brendan Murphy has said.

Murphy recently told a parliamentary inquiry into Australia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic that he could not set a deadline for the completion of Australia's troubled vaccine rollout.

"At the moment we are not in a position to give an updated time on when vaccinations will be completed, but all first ministers want it completed as soon as possible," he said.

"There are still a number of uncertainties, even with a re-calibrated plan."

In another development, Australia's Victoria state on Wednesday unveiled plans to develop an onshore messenger-RNA (mRNA) vaccine manufacturing facility and launched three mass coronavirus immunisation centres to speed up the national inoculation programme.

South Korea

South Korea hopes the United States will help it tackle a shortage of coronavirus vaccine in return for test kits and masks Seoul sent to Washington earlier in the pandemic, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The government has drawn fire from the media for not doing enough to secure enough vaccines early, with just 3% of the population inoculated, due to tight global supply and limited access.

"We have been stressing to the United States that 'A friend in need is a friend indeed,'" the minister, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters at the Kwanhun Club of South Korean journalists.

He said South Korea had airlifted Washington a large volume of coronavirus test kits and face masks in the early stages of the pandemic "in the spirit of the special South Korea-US alliance," despite tight domestic supply at the time.

South Korea reported 731 more cases of COVID-19 as of midnight Tuesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 115,926.

Moderna Inc’s vaccine will be supplied to South Korea in the second half of 2021, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told lawmakers Tuesday. South Korea said last year Moderna agreed to provide enough vaccines for 20 million people, with shipments starting in the second quarter. South Korea is still aiming for herd immunity nationwide by November.

Israel 

Israel no longer wants AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine and is exploring with the company whether a big shipment in the pipeline could be sent elsewhere, Israel's pandemic coordinator said on Wednesday.

"We are trying to find the best solution. After all, we don't want (the vaccines) to get here and have to throw them into the trash," the official, Nachman Ash, told Army Radio, saying Israel's needs were being met by other suppliers.

In his remarks, Ash made no reference to AstraZeneca’s vaccine having been associated with very rare blood clots in Europe. Many countries there resumed administering it after the European Union's drug watchdog said benefits outweighed risks.

Israel cast a wide net last year when trying to secure vaccine doses at the height of the pandemic and pre-ordered from a number of companies.

Israel will begin another national COVID-19 vaccination rollout by the end of 2021, in a bid that might include children, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

Speaking in a televised statement, Netanyahu said he reached an agreement with drug giants Pfizer and Moderna to purchase 16 million coronavirus vaccines, in addition to the millions already purchased from the two companies.

Israel's Ministry of Health reported 158 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, raising the total number in the country to 837,357.

The death toll from the virus rose by five to 6,345, while the number of patients in serious conditions decreased from 190 to 175, out of 287 hospitalized patients.

Fiji

Fiji announced on Wednesday stringent measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 after more COVID-19 cases have been reported in the island nation in recent days.

To further contain the spread of COVID-19, Fiji's Health Ministry announced that COVID-19 restrictions that will be enforced across Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island and other parts of Fiji.

From Thursday, funerals are the only social gatherings that will be allowed, but will be limited to 20 people only. All other social events that will require large gatherings need to be canceled. All gyms, movie theaters, video gaming shops, bars or amusement arcades must be closed for at least the next 14 days. Restaurants must not offer in-person dining.

READ MORE: Tokyo governor says state of emergency needed 'ASAP'

Iraq

Iraqi Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi said on Tuesday that the medical institutions are still facing a great challenge in controlling the coronavirus pandemic, as the ministry reported 8,208 new COVID-19 cases.

"The ministry, health institutions, and health centers still have a major challenge to meet in the face of the second wave of the virus," al-Tamimi said during a meeting with the ministry's senior health officials, according to a ministry statement.

The meeting discussed the efforts of health institutions to respond to the pandemic, including the coronavirus vaccination campaign.

In a separate statement, the ministry reported 8,208 new coronavirus cases in Iraq, raising the total nationwide number to 993,158.

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is postponing plans to visit India and the Philippines on a trip originally set for the end of the month, media said on Wednesday.

Suga will instead focus on handling a recent surge in coronavirus cases, broadcaster FNN and other media said.

Tokyo and Osaka will ask the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency, looking to ramp up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus just three months before the start of the delayed Olympics.

Virus cases are spreading in the capital and swift action is needed, with the medical system coming under strain in some areas, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Tuesday he’ll seek the declaration to stem record infections in the country’s second-biggest metropolis.

The Japanese government is expected to receive additional 50 million doses of Pfizer vaccine by the end of September, Nikkei reported without attribution. The government and Pfizer will sign a contract as soon as this month, according to the report.

Relatives of a COVID-19 fatality wearing PPE console each other while attending a funeral in New Delhi on April 19. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

Laos

Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh has instructed authorities in charge to continue with the vaccination of target groups and to offer the vaccine to all other citizens.

The Lao Ministry of Health reported 28 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the country's caseload to 88.

Director General of the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology under the Lao Ministry of Health, Phonepadith Xangsayarath, told a press conference that the new cases included 26 cases in the capital Vientiane, and all of them had a close contact with the 59th case announced on Tuesday.

Lebanon

Lebanon registered on Tuesday 1,608 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 513,006, the Health Ministry reported.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the virus went up by 36 to 6,995.

Head of the Parliamentary Health Committee Assem Araji said Tuesday that he feels optimistic about the drop in the daily number of infections and deaths in Lebanon.

ALSO READ: Turkey administers over 20m COVID-19 vaccines

Mongolia 

Mongolia reported 1,169 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide count to 25,364, the country's National Center for Communicable Diseases (NCCD) said Wednesday.

The Asian country added five more deaths in the past day, the NCCD said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 486 more patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, taking the national count to 13,346, according to the NCCD.

Nepal

Nepal's drug regulator on Tuesday approved Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V for emergency use in Nepal.

By issuing a notice on its website on Tuesday, the Department of Drug Administration, the drug regulator, made the announcement.

According to the department, the Russian vaccine could be inoculated among the people aged over 18 years.

Nepali health experts have called for strong enforcement of restrictive measures to curb the new wave of COVID-19 infections.

The Nepali government on Monday issued a slew of prohibitory orders including a ban on gatherings of people over 25, shutting down schools in urban areas, cinema halls, gyms and health clubs amid the surging cases of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Nepal's health ministry reported 1,736 new COVID-19 cases.

Qatar

The Qatari health ministry on Tuesday announced 885 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number in the Gulf state to 198,361, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Meanwhile, 733 more recovered from the virus, bringing the overall recoveries to 175,431, while the fatalities increased by five to 391, according to a ministry statement quoted by QNA.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia reported 1,070 new cases on Tuesday, the biggest daily jump in eight months, bringing the total number of infections to 407,010. The kingdom recorded 12 new coronavirus-related deaths, raising the total to 6,846, the health ministry said in a tweet.

A health ministry spokesman said the spike is attributable to gatherings and people not observing virus restrictions in all regions as they celebrate the month of Ramadan, a key Islamic holiday that often involves social gatherings.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has found six cases of blood clots among recipients of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, three of whom have died, Health Minister Pavithra Waniarachchi told parliament on Wednesday.

Nearly a million people have been given the first dose of the Indian-made vaccine in the country. No announcement of any halt to the vaccination programme has been made.

Thailand

Thailand is trying to secure 35 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines from two or three companies this year on top of existing orders of around 65 million doses, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.

The country aims to boost its vaccine order by more than 50 percent to 100 million doses this year in a bid to reach herd immunity as surging local infections threaten to derail its plan to reopen borders to tourism and reboot the economy.

Thailand on Wednesday reported 1,458 COVID-19 cases and two deaths, according to Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Of the new cases, 1,454 were local transmissions, including 365 in the capital Bangkok where the recent outbreak originated, and four others were imported cases, CCSA spokeswoman Apisamai Srirangsan said.

Two new deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the national toll to 110, she said.

The UAE

The United Arab Emirates, which has rolled out one of the world’s fastest coronavirus inoculation programs, is considering restrictions on people who haven’t yet taken a vaccine despite being eligible for one. Possible measures include restricting entry to some places, said Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.

The country has administered about 9.8 million doses in a mostly expatriate population of 10 million. The program was expanded last month and most people 16 and above are now eligible for free shots.

Turkey

Turkey on Tuesday confirmed 346 deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, its highest daily death toll since the beginning of the outbreak, according to its health ministry.

Meanwhile, the ministry reported 61,028 new COVID-19 cases in Turkey, including 2,895 symptomatic patients, raising the total number in the country to 4,384,624.

Its total number of deaths has surged to 36,613, while the total recoveries climbed to 3,792,129 after 55,592 more recovered in the last 24 hours.

The rate of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients stands at 2.9 percent and the number of seriously ill patients is 3,375 in the country, said the ministry.

Myanmar 

Myanmar reported 13 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, according to a release from the Health and Sports Ministry on Wednesday.

The number of COVID-19 confirmed cases rose to 142,674 while its death toll stood at 3,206, the release said.

A total of 1,103 samples were tested for COVID-19, down from around 10,000 samples tested daily in early February.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports warned people to prevent a possible third wave by strictly following precautionary measures. The warning comes as cases sharply increase in nearby India and Thailand, while testing in Myanmar has declined since a coup earlier this year.

Oman

The Omani Health Ministry on Wednesday announced 1,077 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Sultanate to 183,770, the official Oman News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, 1,094 people recovered during the past 24 hours, taking the overall recoveries to 163,750 while 17 deaths were reported, pushing the tally up to 1,926, according to a ministry statement quoted by ONA.

Iran

The Iranian Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 24,886 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the country's total infections to 2,311,813.

The pandemic has so far claimed 67,913 lives in Iran, up by 388 in the past 24 hours, said Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education, during her daily briefing.

A total of 1,823,958 people have recovered from the disease or been discharged from hospitals across the country, while 4,991 remain in intensive care units, she noted.

Singapore

Singapore is reviewing its border measures for recovered travelers following the emergence of new variants of concern as coronavirus cases tick up around the world.

The city-state will also closely monitor for re-infection of people who have previously recovered from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said in a statement published Tuesday. The announcement came after a recent case, where an individual likely contracted the virus again during a visit to India and was infectious when he returned to Singapore, the ministry said.

Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 15 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the country's tally to 60,880.

Of the new cases, 14 are imported cases and one is a community case.

On Wednesday, 36 more recovered COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals and community isolation facilities, bringing the total number of recoveries to 60,576, the ministry said.

There are 70 active cases being treated in hospitals, and one is in critical condition and held in the intensive care unit.


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