DR HARSH VARDHAN LAUNCHES MOBILE APP TO ENABLE PEOPLE EASY ACCESS TO BLOOD
The country has recorded over 14,000 coronavirus cases for the 6th consecutive day since June 20, when 14,516 cases were reported. From June 21-24, there was a hike of cases from 15,413 to 15,968. In total, 92,573 cases have been reported since June 20 and over 2.82 lakh this month since June 1.
A mobile application that would enable people to access “safe blood” easily, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, was launched by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday, June 25, 2020. Developed by the E-Raktkosh, a team of Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) under the Digital India scheme, the application will bring transparency and will facilitate singlewindow access to blood services of the Indian Red Cross Society.
Dr Vardhan said, “In the last few months, I received several complaints from people facing difficulties in accessing safe blood. Many people require blood-related services regularly because of certain medical conditions in their families. Through this app, four units of blood can be requisitioned at a time and the blood bank will wait for 12 hours for the person to collect it.”
The Health Ministry informed that from limited COVID-19 tests in January, a cumulative total of 75,60,782 samples have been tested up to June 24 with 2,07,871 samples being tested on Wednesday (June 24,2020). The ministry also said that there are in total 1,007 diagnostic labs, of which 734 are in the government sector and 273 in private.
SOUTH AFRICA BEGINS FIRST TRIALS FOR COVID-19 VACCINE
The first clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University has begun in South Africa. The global fight against COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying with medical experts and drug makers from across the world ramping up the efforts to arrive at the potential treatment for coronavirus vaccine.
With nearly 10 million COVID-19 patients across the globe and over 4.8 coronavirus fatalities, the virus has encaptured almost the entire planet under its grip and the need for a Covid-19 antidote had becomes more urgent. American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences will soon initiate its clinical trials for an inhaled formulation of its antiviral drug Remdesivir used for the treatment of Covid-19. Remdesivir has made great strides in its role in the formulation of a vaccine against the contagion.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), presently there are 13 experimental drugs which are being tested on humans, while over 120 others are in the earlier stages of development. Meanwhile, according to Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO, around 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine would be ready by the end of 2021.
However, many scientists still anticipate that a safe and effective vaccine to treat coronavirus patients may take 12-18 months to develop. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms comprising Moderna Inc, and AstraZeneca, have been accelerating the pace of their production, promising millions of supplies of their experimental vaccines before the year-end. Last month, global drug firm Pfizer said that a vaccine to treat COVID-19 patients could be ready by October-end.
Some of the latest development on Covid-19 vaccine and treatment:
- The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc.’s experimental vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is the first to enter the final stages of clinical trials. If the trial is successful, the Oxford Vaccine Group expects to launch the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year.
- The first clinical trial of COVID19vaccine is being developed by Oxford University will be initiated in South Africa.
- A Chinese military research institute has been approved to test its second experimental coronavirus vaccine in humans, the eighth Chinese candidate in clinical trials.
- Experts believe that Patanjali Ayurved Ltd’s claim of a breakthrough cure for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) termed as ‘Coronil’ will be marketed as immunity booster rather than ultimate cure for coronavirus.
- The UK has started immunisation of about 300 people with a new coronavirus vaccine as part of a trial led by experts at Imperial College London.
- The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) – an influential foundation focused on preparation and response to epidemics – has been identified by manufacturers with capacity to produce four billion doses of Covid-19 a year. The CEPI is backing nine potential coronavirus vaccines.
Source: www.hindustantimes.com, www.businesstoday.in
INDIA TO HAVE SAY IN COVID VACCINE DISTRIBUTION
I ndia’s Covid diplomacy has moved beyond Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol to ensure that the country can leverage its position as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer to be part of the search and distribution of the Covid vaccine.
After sustained conversations with their counterparts in key countries, the government has zeroed in on the IndoPacific group to cooperate for the vaccine. The key players have been foreign minister Shri S Jaishankar and foreign secretary Shri Harsh Shringla as well as the Prime Minister’s principal scientific adviser Prof. K Vijayaraghavan and the government’s department of biotechnology.
In an exclusive interview, Prof. Vijayaraghavan said, “India will have a voice- even if there is no “Indian” vaccinein terms of distribution because India’s role in providing vaccine to others will be very important”
Shri Shringla has continued a sustained and regular conversation with his US counterpart Mr.Steve Biegun, as well as officials from Japan, Australia and South Korea, while Shri Jaishankar has added political heft to converse with US, Israel, the Quad countries, Brazil and South Korea. India, officials said that it would work with “like-minded countries” not only for vaccine development, but its production and distribution.
Prof. Vijayaraghavan says, “Globally there are more than 125 vaccine development programmes today, of these, 10 are in the first stage, eight in phase two (animal and limited human trials) and two in phase 3 (larger-scale human trials).We will know the results of the phase 3 trials in a few months’ time”
Apart from the Oxford University programme where India has a large presence and which is currently the most advanced, getting into phase 3, “There is a programme in the US called Warp Speed which combines phase 1 and 2. Vaccines in these programmes include those by Johnson & Johnson and Merck and others. A Chinese one also going into phase 3. There is an Australian one, also going into phase 3, by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia. That’s not really a vaccine for COVID-19, but it is new kind of BCG vaccine,” Prof. Vijayaraghavan confirmed Interestingly, while India has a presence in most of the international vaccine development programmes, it has no presence in the two Chinese vaccine programmes.
Prof.Vijayaraghavan gave his observation that “The size and extraordinary capability of the Indian vaccine manufacturing effort in bulk are enormous and well appreciated. Apart from the big multinationals, Brazil, Indonesia, China and India have enormous capabilities. India has the largest. So India will not be ignored no matter who makes the vaccine.”
Source: www.timesofindia.india times.com
CORONAVIRUS VACCINE UPDATE: MODERNA, ASTRAZENECA, SANOFI MAKE HEADWAY
While there are multiple pharmaceutical companies across the world that are working towards a coronavirus vaccine, there are only a handful that have reached advanced stages of trials. Moderna, and AstraZeneca that is developing the corona vaccine with Oxford University have been in the news for making headway in the trials. Johnson and Johnson, Sanofi, Inovio, Sinovac, CanSino are some of the other companies to have made significant progress.
Additionally, a vaccine alliance that is backing at least nine candidates has identified manufacturers that can produce up to 4 billion doses of vaccine in a year. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) has identified two or three manufacturing plants for each vaccine. They currently produce two billion doses by 2021. The group is planning for eight to 10 regional distribution sites in order to avoid making everything centrally and trying to ship it around the world.
Moderna: The US-based pharma company is all set for Phase III trial in July. The third phase of the trial will include 30,000 participants in the US. It will be conducted alongside the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). CEO Stephane Bancel said that the vaccine candidate has an 80-90 percent chance of receiving FDA approval. He further said that “We know our platform. It works on MERS, Zika and CMV and so on. When you have the right sequence… you will get neutralising antibodies.
AstraZeneca: The company has started trials in South Africa and Brazil. University of Witwatersrand in South Africa is working with Oxford University to evaluate the candidate. Meanwhile the Brazil trials are sponsored by the Lemann Foundation. Moreover, AstraZeneca has signed its 10th deal for supply and manufacturing of its vaccine candidate. Symbiosis Pharmaceutical said on Wednesday it agreed to make and supply an unspecified number of units of the vaccine, AZD1222, for AstraZeneca to use in clinical trials.
Johnson and Johnson: J&J has expedited its trials for the COVID vaccine. The final stage of the trial is expected to begin in September and has been further scheduled for second half of the July. Like AstraZeneca, J&J believes this to be a race against time. The company expects to get approval for its candidate by early 2021. Johnson and Johnson have also received funds from US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA) to speed up its vaccine development programme. The company is also in talks with European Commission to supply its candidate if it succeeds.
Inovio: Inovio began human trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidate in April. It expects to report interim results from the trial later this month, and added that it would begin mid-stage trials this summer. The pharmaceutical company said that it has received $71 million from the US Department of Defence (DoD) to scale up production of the company’s devices that are used to administer its experimental COVID-19 vaccine into the skin.
CanSino: The company is developing its corona vaccine with Academy of Military Science (AMS) and People’s Liberation Army. The candidate is under Phase II of trials in China and has been approved for human trials in Canada.
Pfizer: The company aims to make the COVID-19 vaccine candidate ready by October 2020. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company Albert Bourla said, “If things go well, and the stars are aligned, we will have enough evidence of safety and efficacy so that we can… have a vaccine around the end of October.” The company is working with German firm BioNTech for possible vaccines.
Sanofi Pasteur: French drugmaker Sanofi expects to get approval for the corona vaccine that it is developing alongwith GlaxoSmithKline Plc by the first half of the next year. If successful, it would be available by April 2021. “We are being guided by our dialogue with regulatory authorities,” said Sanofi research Chief John Reed.
Sinovac: Chinese vaccine-maker Sinovac has said that its candidate CoronaVac has witnessed immune response in Phases I and II of the trials. It said that the vaccine has not caused severe side effects and more than 90 per cent of the volunteers have induced neutralising antibodies.
FIRST ICMR-APPROVED COVID-19 ANTIBODY TESTS LAUNCHED IN INDIA
Chennai-headquartered CPC Diagnostics (CPC), a portfolio company of Everstone-backed healthcare platform Everlife Holdings, has launched Covid-19 antibody tests — SARS COV-2 IgM and SARS COV-2 IgG in India. Both CE-approved tests are the first of their kinds to be approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). The CE marking is also found on products sold outside the EEA that have been manufactured to EEA standards.
The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-based tests are developed by Shenzhen-based YHLO Biotech, and run on the fully automated analysers iFlash 1800/3000, offering sensitivity of 97.3% and 86.1% for IgG and IgM, respectively, with specificity of 96.3% and 99.2%, respectively.
R Kailasnath, MD, CPC Diagnostics, said: “Our government recognises the need for more and better testing, and we are happy to be contributing to India’s fight against Covid-19 with these highly sensitive and specific assays. Our priority now is to work closely with all stakeholders such as the government, the private sector as well as the medical research fraternity to make these tests available to them.”
The IgM assay is capable of detecting the disease as early as the seventh day after infection. The iFlash system minimises the human error while being able to handle large volumes. Depending on the analyser model, a lab can report up to 1,000 to 2,000 results per day on a single instrument, with the flexibility for facilities to add further modules to ramp up output substantially, as stated on behalf of Everstone Group.
CPC is also planning to launch another antibody ELISA-based testing solution, which is under the process of ICMR approval. The ELISA tests developed by EUROIMMUN AG in Germany can be programmed on any automated ELISA processor or ELISA reader in addition to the dedicated EUROIMMUN analysers. These tests offer high sensitivity of 93.8% and 100% for IgG and IgA, respectively, with specificity of 99.3% and 90.5% respectively. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, also called ELISA or EIA, is a test that detects and measures antibodies in the blood.
CPC, a manufacturer and marketer of in-vitro diagnostic products, has three decades of experience in the industry. It operates in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to the company statement, the antibody tests are very valuable in community screening and surveillance and they eminently complement the RTPCR tests.
Unlike qualitative rapid tests, CPC’s CLIA and ELISA tests provide semi-quantitative values. This feature is useful to assess the suitability of plasma (from individuals who have recovered) for therapy. Raman Gandotra, CEO, Everlife, said: “Everlife is committed to support its portfolio companies to fight COVID-19 in all the countries where it operates, by providing safe and accurate testing. Quantitative serological antibody testing is uniquely suited in the current Covid environment, where countries are not only looking at detecting and controlling the spread but also preparing to re-open their economies.”
GOVT TO ALLOW PPE, VENTILATOR EXPORTS AS INDIAN COMPANIES ARE MASS PRODUCING THEM NOW
The government is likely to soon allow exports of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and ventilators, two crucial components in the battle against coronavirus.
Over the past few months, since COVID-19 was first identified as a strengthening threat, the present ruling government has ramped up India’s capacities to manufacture PPE kits and ventilators in collaboration with private players.
According to government data, India is currently churning out an estimated 6 lakh personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and around 1,000 ventilators daily. According to two sources, the government is now working on the proposal to allow manufacturers to export surplus equipment after the domestic demand has been taken into account.
“The PPE kit-makers have informed us that they are getting demand orders from several nations, including the US, the UK, Nigeria, Germany, Spain, Russia and Uganda,” a senior health ministry officer said.
“Several ministries, including those of commerce and health, and the Empowered Group III are involved in drafting the proposal to allow exports,” the officer added. Empowered Group III is one of the highlevel panels set up by the government to bolster its response against the pandemic.
Launched by an order of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the group holds the mandate of ensuring the availability of essential medical equipment such as PPE, masks, gloves and ventilators, and oversees each aspect in this regard, from production and procurement to import and distribution.
AYUSHMAN BHARAT’S ROLE DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK IN INDIA
People covered under Ayushman Bharat Scheme would be eligible for free treatment of COVID-19 as per report.
Ayushman Bharat is the flagship health insurance scheme by the Central Government for the poor people. As per National Health Authority’s (NHA) direction, the treatment and testing of COVID-19 will be done for free of cost in any of the private hospitals empanelled for the scheme. The source told that the packages have been finalized for the regions that require multiple tests, and if a person needs isolation it will be covered under the same scheme.
NHA might have also created additional packages in cases where patients are going through respiratory distress and need intensive care in some serious cases.
The Ayushman Bharat Scheme or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana is the flagship scheme of the central government to provide health coverage for the poor segment of the population. Also, it’s the world’s largest health coverage scheme covering more than 10 crore families.
A cover of Rs 5 lakh is provided per family over 1400 predefined packages across 23 specialties. The source added, approvals for the packages have been sought within two days, once the packages are in place and want to be prepared if there are possibilities of community transmission being reported.
Managing the call centre for the 1075 helpline of the health ministry, fielding about 30,000 to 40,000 calls every day in terms of providing information. Preparation of a big database of citizens showed high-risk people, the elderly who have co-morbid conditions, etc.
700,000 calls were done to such highrisk people to gather data for follow up with anyone who have COVID-19 like symptoms. Consulting doctors to ensure they get the right information and treatment. If they need testing, treatment, or isolation, all is being managed under Ayushman Bharat, shares Dr. Indu Bhusan, CEO of the National Health Authority (the agency that presides over the scheme).
Then, with Aarogya Setu, all the people who report having COVID-19 like symptoms and are in categories of having been in direct contact with a COVID-19 patient were initial tested for symptoms to ensure the confirmation of the contagion. Connect them with doctors and offer telemedicine to ensure follow-up actions.
He also said that “We have also expanded our empanelment (of private hospitals) because we know that we need more hospitals, not only for COVID-19 but also for non-coronavirus cases. As many hospitals have converted themselves into dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, a lot of critical activities like dialysis and chemotherapy still need to be done and we need more hospitals. So in the past month-and-a-half, we have actually impanelled more than 1,000 new hospitals to take care of such people.” The pandemic has derailed the whole world.
So, it would be unrealistic to expect that all programmes will continue as they were. We have prepared packages and most of the states have started providing testing and treatment under PM-JAY. So far, the caseload was not that much and therefore the response was centered on public health facilities. But as the surge is taking place, we’ll need more and more private sector participation.
Source: www.bfsi.economictimes.indiatimes.com, www.qz.com
Compiled by: Parthvee Jain, Editor, InnoHEALTH, Magazine