India Coronavirus Dispatch: Nod to Covaxin raises many eyebrows

COVID-19 vaccine administration dry run is being conducted, at a health care centre in Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
The nod to Covaxin raises many eyebrows

The approval from India's drug regulator to Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's vaccine candidate Covaxin has raised many eyebrows. This report in The Quint highlights some of the questions being raised by medical experts. 

The DCGI said that the expert panel of the CDSCO relied on safety and immunogenicity data submitted by the firm in animal species and on clinical trials that were conducted in around 800 subjects in phase 1, phase 2. The data presumably demonstrated that the vaccine is safe and provides a satisfactory immune response. However, the firm has shared this data publicly only in preprints, with no peer review conducted, the report said.

Also, this data is not enough to indicate the efficacy of a vaccine that can only be established via larger phase 3 trials. Bharat Biotech is still recruiting for the ongoing phase 3 trials of Covaxin, the report said. Read more here

Vaccine candidates under development in India apart from Covishield and Covaxin

India's national drug regulator announced on Sunday that the Covid-19 vaccines of both Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech have been approved for restricted use in the country. A report in the Hindustan Times lists the other Covid-19 vaccines under development in the country currently.

1. Zydus Cadila's DNA-based vaccine ZyCoV-D is being developed in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology. India's drug regulator has given its nod to kick off phase 3 trials.

2. Russian vaccine Sputnik V developed by the country's Gamaleya Institute. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories is conducting phases 2 and 3 clinical trials. 

3. Serum Institute of India's NVX-COV-2373 being developed in collaboration with US-based NovaVax. Phase 3 trial is under consideration.

4. Hyderabad-based Biological E plans to start large late-stage trials of its potential Covid-19 vaccine candidate in April. It is being developed in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and US-based Dynavax Technologies.

5. HGCO19, an mRNA based vaccine candidate, is being developed by Pune-based Gennova, and supported with a seed grant under the Ind-CEPI mission of the Department of Biotechnology. Phase 1 trials are yet to begin.

6. Bharat Biotech’s second vaccine is being developed in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University, US, which is at the pre-clinical stages.

7. Aurobindo Pharma has announced its own Covid-19 vaccine development programme through its US subsidiary Auro Vaccines. This vaccine is still in the pre-clinical phase. Read more here

Dangerous conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19

Even as the pandemic has claimed over 1.83 million lives several conspiracy theories have done the rounds on the internet. Here are some notable, but baseless conspiracy theories around Covid-19, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

‘Impotency’: Samajwadi Party leader Ashutosh Sinha claimed the vaccines may be used by the government to turn people impotent. Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) VG Somani has rubbished the claims.

5G causes Covid-19: In the early days of the outbreak, conspiracy theorists claimed that 5G networks caused Covid-19, pointing to the installation of 5G towers in Wuhan. The United States Federal Communications Commission released a statement to stop the rumour.

‘Plandemic’: A a video titled "Plandemic" that was uploaded to YouTube, a discredited medical researcher called Judy Mikovits made claims that face masks were a “a money-making enterprise that causes medical harm”. The video, which garnered millions of views, was taken down. 

Bill Gates and microchip: A conspiracy theory suggested Microsoft founder Bill Gates had planned to use a potential Covid-19 vaccine to implant microchips to monitor the movement of billions of people. Gates called it a “bad combination of pandemic and social media”. Read more here

Private hospitals keen on providing Covid-19 vaccination

Private healthcare providers are keen on taking up Covid-19 vaccination, according to a report in The Hindu.

K Hariprasad, president of the hospitals division at Apollo Hospitals, said the private sector is prepared to support the government in the vaccination drive as and when they are directed to. Y.K. Mishra, chief of clinical services, Manipal Hospitals, said once the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines get the approval from the authorities in India, the possibility of private hospitals providing vaccines will open up. Read more here

Ten reasons to not be hesitant to get vaccinated

Vaccine hesitancy – loosely defined as the phenomenon of people refusing to get inoculated despite the presence of a safe and effective vaccine – is complex and driven by several factors. If you are among those feeling hesitant to get the Covid-19 vaccine, this report in The Coversation has 10 reasons why you should consider getting the shots. Read more here

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