Govt extends gap between 2 doses of Covishield to 12-18 weeks
Source: PTI - Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: May 13, 2021 22:17 IST
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The Centre on Thursday approved extending the gap between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks following a recommendation from a government panel, and said it is a 'science-based decision' taken with confidence that there will be no extra risk.
Photograph: Photograph: Ranu Abhelakh/Reuters
However, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) has suggested no change for the dosage interval for Covaxin, the ministry said.
'Based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from the UK, the COVID-19 Working Group agreed for increasing the dosing interval to 12-16 weeks between two doses of Covishield vaccine.
'No change in interval of Covaxin vaccine doses was recommended,' the ministry said.
The present gap between two doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is 6-8 weeks.
The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's indigenously developed Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield, being manufactured by the Pune-based SII, are currently being used in India's inoculation drive against coronavirus.
The central government's move comes amid reports from several states about shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some states and UTs have also reported that they had to suspend its vaccination drive for 18-44 years in view of the scarcity.
While Maharashtra decided on Wednesday to suspend its drive to vaccinate people in the age group of 18 to 44 years in view of vaccine shortage, Delhi also temporarily shut Covaxin-administering centres for this age group as it has run out of stock.
Several states and UTs including Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana have also decided to opt for global tenders for procurement of anti-coronavirus shots with the domestic supply falling short to meet the rising demand.
Asserting that it has been a 'science based decision' taken based on the recommendations of the NTAGI, V K Paul, member (Health) NITI Aayog said as per studies, initially the dosage interval between two doses of covishield was 4 to 6 weeks but then as more data became available secondary analysis showed increasing the dosage interval to 4 to 8 weeks can have some 'advantage'.
NTAGI is a standing committee which was constituted much before COVID-19 had emerged and works on immunization for children, Paul said, and added that 'it looks at scientific data and we must respect the decision of this institution. They make independent decision'.
They had seen that the UK by that time had already extended it to 12 weeks and WHO also had said the same, but many nations had not changed the dosage pattern, Paul noted.
At that time our science based technical committee anchored by the Indian Council of Medical Research along with DBT by looking at the available data felt breakthrough infections may increase if the gap is increased beyond eight weeks, Paul said.
"So in good faith, based on science, without any pressures, they increased the dosage interval to 4 to 8 weeks. Now based on the available real-life evidences, particularly from the UK, the decision to extend it from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks has been taken with confidence that there will not be an extra risk" he said.
"This is a dynamic decision and, part of periodic review," Paul added .
Asked if the efficacy of the vaccine will be affected with this extension, Paul said, "The efficacy is so good even after the single dose...it's not a problem at all."
This is the second time in the past few months that the interval between the two doses of Covishield has been increased. In March, the Union health ministry had asked states and UTs to increase the gap from 28 days to 6-8 weeks.
"The recommendation of the COVID-19 Working Group was accepted by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC)....in its meeting on May 12, 2021," the ministry said.
The COVID-19 Working Group is chaired by Dr N K Arora, who is director at the INCLEN Trust.
Its members include Dr Rakesh Agarwal, Director and Dean, GIPMER, Puducherry; Dr Gagandeep Kang, professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore; Dr Naveen Khanna, Group Leader, International Centre For Genetic Engineering And Biotechnology (ICGEB), Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Dr Amulya Panda, Director, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi; and Dr V G Somani, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).
Earlier in the day, the NTAGI recommended increasing the gap between two doses of Covishield to 12-16 weeks and said that pregnant women may be offered the choice to take any vaccine.
It also stated that those having laboratory test proven SARS-CoV-2 illness should defer COVID-19 vaccination for six months after recovery.
The panel rejected the proposal for routinely screening all vaccine recipients with rapid antigen testing prior to COVID vaccination.
The NTAGI recommended that all pregnant women visiting for ANC care may be informed about risks and benefits associated with Covishield and Covaxin.
Based on the information provided, a pregnant woman may be offered the choice to take any of the COVID 19 vaccine.
An educational tool comprising information on risk of COVID 19 infection during pregnancy, benefits associated with the vaccination and rare complications associated with vaccines like thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (with Covishield) may be developed.
Also, all lactating women are eligible to receive the COVID 19 vaccines any time after delivery, the panel suggested.
According to the current vaccination protocol, pregnant and lactating women should not be administered the shots as they have not been part of any anti-coronavirus vaccine clinical trial so far.
In case of individuals who have received the first dose and before completion of the dosing schedule if they test positive for COVID-19, they should wait for 4-8 weeks after clinical recovery from the illness.
Also, COVID-19 patients who have been given anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma may defer COVID-19 vaccination for three months from the day of discharge from hospital, the recommendations stated.
Individuals having any other serious illness requiring hospitalisation or ICU care should also wait for 4-8 weeks before getting the next COVID vaccine, it added.
Religious, political events accelerated COVID in India: WHO
By Yoshita Singh
May 12, 2021 21:54 IST
The World Health Organisation has said a recent risk assessment of the situation in India found that ‘resurgence and acceleration’ of COVID-19 transmission in the country had several potential contributing factors, including "several religious and political mass gathering events which increased social mixing".
The WHO, in its COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, published on Wednesday, said that viruses in the B.1.617 lineage were first reported in India in October 2020.
"The resurgence in COVID-19 cases and deaths in India has raised questions on the potential role of B.1.617 and other variants (e.g., B.1.1.7) in circulation,” the update said.
"A recent risk assessment of the situation in India conducted by WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of COVID-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including increase in the proportion of cases of SARS-CoV-2 variants with potentially increased transmissibility; several religious and political mass gathering events which increased social mixing; and, under use of and reduced adherence to public health and social measures. The exact contributions of these each of these factors on increased transmission in India are not well understood,” it said.
The update said that approximately 0.1 per cent of positive samples in India have been sequenced and uploaded to GISAID to identify SARS-CoV-2 variants. GISAID enables rapid and open access to epidemic and pandemic virus data.
The WHO update said that "the prevalence of several VOCs including B.1.1.7 and B.1.612 sublineages increased concurrent to the surge in COVID-19 cases reported in India."
"Since the identification of these variants through late April 2021, B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 accounted for 21% and 7% of sequenced samples from India,” the update said, adding that preliminary analyses conducted by WHO using sequences submitted to GISAID suggests that B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 have a substantially higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility compared.
The update said that outside of India, the United Kingdom has reported the largest number of cases sequenced as B.1.617 sub-lineages, and recently designated B.1.617.2 as a ‘national variant of concern’.
Giving a global overview of the COVID19 situation, the update said that the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths globally decreased slightly this week, with over 5.5 million cases and over 90000 deaths.
"While India continues to account for 95 per cent of cases and 93 per cent of deaths in the South-East Asia Region, as well as 50 per cent of global cases and 30 per cent of global deaths, worrying trends have been observed in neighbouring countries,” it said.
The highest numbers of new cases were reported from India (2,738,957 new cases; 5 per cent increase), Brazil (423,438 new cases; similar to previous week), the USA (334,784 new cases; 3 per cent decrease), Turkey (166,733 new cases; 35 per cent decrease), and Argentina (140,771 new cases; 8 per cent decrease).
The South-East Asia Region reported over 2.8 million new cases and just under 29,000 new deaths, a 6 per cent and a 15 per cent increase respectively compared to the previous week. This marks the ninth consecutive week the incidences of cases and deaths have been increasing in the region.
The highest numbers of new deaths were reported from India (26,820 new deaths; 1.9 new deaths per 100.000; a 15 per cent increase), Indonesia (1190 new deaths; 0.4 new deaths per 100,000; a 3 per cent increase), and Bangladesh (368 new deaths; 0.2 new deaths per 100,000; a 34 per cent decrease).
Religious, political events accelerated COVID in India: WHO. 'A recent risk assessment of the situation in India conducted by WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of COVID-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including increase in the proportion of cases of...
यह कोविड अवेयरनेस सीरीज़ का पहला वीडियो है। इसमें उन वैज्ञानिक संभावनाओं की चर्चा की गई है जिनसे हम कोविड संकट की समाप्ति का अनुमान लगा सकते हैं। Endemic, Herd Immunity, Sero Survey, Strains & Variants तथा Vaccination जैसी धारणाओं के माध्यम से अनुमानों को स्पष्ट किया गया है। इस सीरीज़ का उद्देश्य यह है कि कोविड के संबंध में जो अफवाहें या भ्रांतियाँ हैं, उन्हें दूर किया जाए ताकि Pandemic को Infodemic बनने से रोका जा सके। यह आसान भाषा में वैज्ञानिक धारणाएँ स्पष्ट करते हुए समाज को निराशा और दुविधाओं से बचाने की पहल है।
Bodies of suspected Covid victims found floating in Ganga, Yamuna
Source: PTI - Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
Last updated on: May 10, 2021 23:17 IST
Several bodies, decomposed, bloated and suspected to be of people who succumbed to COVID-19, were on Monday found floating in the river Ganga in a Bihar district.
In another incident, local residents in Hamirpur district spotted five bodies floating in the Yamuna, creating a scare that these were of COVID patients, an apprehension dismissed by the authorities.
IMAGE: Bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims floating on the bank of the Ganga, in Buxar on Monday. Photograph: Aftab Alam Siddiqui/ANI Photo
Officials in Chausa block of Buxar, which borders Uttar Pradesh, rushed to the spot of the unseemly sight upon hearing the news.
"We were alerted by the local chowkidar that many bodies have been spotted floating from upstream. We have so far recovered 15 of these. None of the deceased happens to be a resident of the district," Chausa BDO Ashok Kumar told PTI over phone.
He said 'many Uttar Pradesh districts are situated right across the river and the bodies may have been dumped in the Ganges for reasons not known to us. We cannot confirm whether the deceased were indeed COVID 19 positive. The bodies have started decomposing'.
"But we are taking all precautions while ensuring that these are disposed of in a decent manner," he said.
Some news channels claimed the number of bodies to be as high as 100, which the BDO dismissed as 'highly exaggerated'.
Many local residents, who spoke before cameras with their faces masked, claimed that the district administration was 'in denial over many such unfortunate incidents involving residents of Buxar'.
They alleged that those manning cremation ghats were charging a fortune whenever people reached there with the body of a near and dear one who died of the coronavirus.
"There is also a shortage of wood and other material required for cremation. Availability of these has taken a hit because of the lockdown. So many bereaved family members are impelled to immerse the bodies of their departed relatives in the river," one of the residents said.
Often family members of a COVID victim are not handed over the body by the administration which claims it would perform the last rites observing the protocol in place for the deadly virus, another local stated.
"What indeed happens is that the officials develop cold feet later and fearing that they might catch the infection themselves, they dump the bodies in the river and flee. Little do they realise that they are also polluting the river," he added.
The resident had spotted the bodies, including a half-burnt corpse, under a bridge on the Yamuna on May 6, according to an official.
'After speaking to people and looking at the bodies, prima facie, it can be said these were not of COVID-19 patients as these were draped in a traditional manner and no body was wrapped as done in the case of COVID-19 victims,' District Magistrate Gyaneshwar Tripathi said in a statement.
He said all bodies were cremated with full respect.
The DM said local residents told police that people immerse bodies of their family members who die during the 'Panchak Nakshatra' and refrain from their cremation.
The DM said some local fishermen told them that people generally tie a body to boulders and heavy stones before immersing it in the river.
At times, bodies that are not completely burnt are also immersed in the river, the DM said.
But this time, due to shallow water, the bodies came to the surface of the river, triggering panic among people, he said.
The upper riparian district of Kanpur has been informed to take necessary action in this regard while the Hamirpur police has been deployed to keep a vigil, he said.
Talking to PTI over the phone, Hamirpur Superintendent of Police Narendra Kumar Singh admitted that some local residents had spotted the bodies floating in the Yamuna.
"There were five bodies, of which one body was partially burnt. The bodies were handed over to the municipal body for cremation," Singh said.
7 more bodies seen floating in Ganga; total count 52
Source: PTI - Edited By: Hemant Waje
May 12, 2021 16:17 IST
With seven more bodies seen floating in the Ganga, the count of bodies found in this Uttar Pradesh district has reached 52, an official said on Wednesday.
IMAGE: Police recover bodies of a woman and three children from Phulwaria Dam under Rajauli police station in Nawada district. Photograph: PTI Photo
The district administration is immediately performing the last rites of the deceased as there is a possibility that they had contracted COVID-19.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, District Magistrate Aditi Singh had said some bodies in a decomposed condition were seen floating under the Ballia-Buxar bridge.
She said Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Sadar) Rajesh Yadav and Circle Officer Jagveer Singh Chauhan are probing the matter and the last rites of the deceased were performed with due respect.
"The last rites of the deceased were performed on Tuesday itself. We are trying to find out where did the bodies come from. Seeing the flow of the river, it seems that they came from Buxar and other parts of Bihar," Yadav told PTI on Wednesday.
Although Buxar is downstream to Ballia, there is a possibility that the bodies came from Buxar, he said.
"The distance between the Bharauli and Ujiyar ghats in the Narahi police station area of Ballia, and the ghat in Buxar is around one kilometre. The direction of wind over the river is towards Ballia," the SDM said.
A police official said the administration is immediately performing the last rites of the dead as there is a possibility that they were infected with the coronavirus.
Bodies fished from Ganga all floated from UP: Minister
Source: PTI - Edited By: Roshneesh Kmaneck
Last updated on: May 11, 2021 20:08 IST
The Bihar government on Tuesday said altogether 71 bodies have been fished out from the Ganga in Buxar district, where these were found floating in the river, triggering suspicion that the abandoned corpses could be those of COVID-19 patients.
State Water Resources Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha, a key aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, came out with a series of tweets, asserting that the bodies had flown downstream from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
"The Bihar government is seized of the matter of unfortunate case of floating mortal remains in river Ganga... The bodies have floated into Bihar from UP," said Jha, adding, doctors have confirmed upon post-mortem that the deaths had taken place "four-five days" ago.
He said the chief minister was pained at both the tragedy as well as the "harm" to river Ganga.
"He has always been particular about the purity and uninterrupted flow of the river and has asked the administration to intensify patrolling to ensure this is not repeated.
"Last rites of 71 bodies performed as per protocols. A net has been placed in the Ganges in Ranighat, bordering UP and Bihar. We have advised the UP administration to be vigilant. Our administration is keeping vigil, too. Advise all to give respect to the dead and also to Maa Ganga," Jha added.
A large number of bloated corpses were seen floating in the river bed in Chausa block of Buxar district on Monday, triggering shock waves.
Though some news channels claimed these were of COVID-19 patients who might have been abandoned by resource-starved family members or dumped by callous officials, the local administration had strongly denied the same, asserting that none of the deceased was a local resident, and the bodies had flown downstream from adjoining UP districts.