Covid-19 Vaccine Updates

Covid Vaccine Updates

With India launching “world’s largest vaccine programme“, let’s look at some updates over the vaccine in the country as well as the world.

Crux of the Matter

“Largest Vaccine Programme”
India started its Covid-19 vaccine programme on 16 January. It was widely called as “world’s largest vaccination programme”.

Vaccination Stats For Day 1

As per the Union Health Ministry:

  • 447 cases of AEFI (Adverse event following immunization) reported on 16th and 17th January.
  • 3 required hospitalisation.
  • 1 death reported in Moradabad – later dismissed as death due to heart attack.


Demand For Covishield In Delhi

  • Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital resident Doctors have refused to “participate in huge numbers” in Covaxin vaccination. Covaxin is a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech.
  • Refusal due to lack of Phase 3 trial completion.
  • Doctors have demanded Covishield instead “which has completed all stages of the trial before its rollout”. Covishield is developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca – manufactured by Serum Institute of India.

Consent Form For Covaxin

  • Receivers of Covaxin of Bharat Biotech were asked to sign a ‘consent form’.
  • Care in Government designated hospitals in case of adverse events.
  • Compensation for “serious adverse event” (if causally related to the vaccine) to be paid by the sponsor Bharat Biotech.

The clinical efficacy of COVAXIN is yet to be established and it is still being studied in phase 3 clinical trial. Hence, it is important to appreciate that receiving the vaccine does not mean that other precautions related to Covid-19 need not be followed.

Covaxin Consent Form

Pfizer Trouble In Norway

  • 29 people have died in Norway after receiving the Covid vaccine of Pfizer Inc.
  • Reported deaths in “elderly people with serious basic disorders”.
  • 13 deaths assessed” as of 17 January – 16 remaining.
  • Covid vaccines now reportedly considered “riskyfor old people.

For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences. For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant.

Norwegian Institute Of Public Health

Curiopedia
  • Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe is a 2016 American pseudoscience propaganda documentary film alleging a cover-up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a purported link between the MMR vaccine and autism. In early November 2019, Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth, a sequel to Vaxxed, was scheduled for release.
  • A vaccine adverse event (VAE) is an adverse event caused by vaccination. The World Health Organization (WHO) knows VAEs as Adverse Events Following Immunization.
  • The Big Pharma conspiracy theory is a group of conspiracy theories that claim that the medical community in general and pharmaceutical companies in particular, especially large corporations, operate for sinister purposes and against the public good and that they allegedly conceal effective treatments, or even cause and worsen a wide range of diseases.

Is Wait For Covid Vaccine Finally Over For India?

Is Wait For Covid Vaccine Finally Over For India?

With India approving ’emergency use’ of Covishield and Covaxin, let us look at the details of the Covid-19 vaccine and some unanswered questions.

Crux of the Matter

DGCI Announces
The Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) VG Somani recently announced approval for ‘emergency use’ of 2 Covid vaccines, which are:

  • Covishield of Oxford Institute (developed by Serum Institute).
  • Covaxin of Bharat Biotech.

Cadila Healthcare has also been cleared for conducting Phase 3 trials.

We’ll never approve anything if there is slightest of safety concern. The vaccines are 110 per cent safe. Some side effects like mild fever, pain and allergy are common for every vaccine.

VG Somani, Drug Controller General of India

Problems

Covishield (Serum Institute)

  • Phase 3 trial in India yet to conclude – data submitted from “overseas” trials.
  • Interimdata submitted till date.
  • A 40-year old man alleged ‘neurologicalproblems originating from the vaccine trial in November – demanded ₹5 crores in compensation.

The firm submitted safety, immunogenicity and efficacy data generated on 23,745 participants aged 18 years or older from overseas clinical studies… the clinical trial ongoing within the country by the firm will continue.

Press Release By DGCI


Covaxin (Bharat Biotech)

  • Phase 3 trial in India yet to conclude.
  • 2 January: 23,000 volunteers recruited for Phase 3 trials – one day before DGCI announcement.
  • Approved as “an abundant precaution… to have more options for vaccinations… the clinical trial ongoing within the country by the firm will continue” (as per DGCI Press Statement).

How Covaxin Works

  • Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV).
  • Inactivated vaccine – developed by inactivating or killing the disease-causing virus.
  • Makes it unable to replicate but recognizable by the immune system to trigger an immune response

How Covishield Works

  • Developed by Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca.
  • Manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
  • Official name – ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222).
  • 70.42% efficacy.
  • Uses “viral vector” based on a weakened version of ‘adenovirus’ which causes infection in Chimpanzees.
  • This virus contains “genetic material” of SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein.
  • The Coronavirus uses this spike to attach to and infect human cells.
  • Immunity developed as the human body now recognizes this spike and counters it.

Both the vaccines would be administered in 2 doses, and both would need to be stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. 1 crore healthcare workers and 2 crore frontline workers would be vaccinated on priority free of cost.

Read debunking of conspiracy theories regarding the vaccine here: Debunking Covid-19 Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

Curiopedia
  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) is the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Within the CDSCO, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) regulates pharmaceutical and medical devices, under the gamut of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • ChAdOx1 is an adenoviral vaccine vector developed by the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford. The vector is a chimpanzee adenovirus modified to avoid its replication.
  • Adenoviruses are medium-sized (90–100 nm), nonenveloped viruses with an icosahedral nucleocapsid containing a double-stranded DNA genome. Their name derives from their initial isolation from human adenoids in 1953.

Debunking Covid-19 Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

Debunking Covid-19 Vaccine Conspiracy Theories

As the year finally comes to an end, let’s have a recap of all the conspiracy theories around Covid-19 and its vaccine. From alleged plans to re-engineer our genetic code to finding a fetus in the vaccine against the SARS-COV-2 virus, we have read them all.

Crux of the Matter

#1: Microchip By Bill Gates

Claim:
The Covid-19 pandemic is a step forward for a bigger plot, to implant trackable microchips and that Microsoft’s Bill Gates is behind it.

Where did this come from?
Bill stated in an interview in March, that eventually “we will have some digital certificates” to know who tested, received a vaccine, recovered etc. Then a web article made references to a study, funded by The Gates Foundation, to further state how Microsoft could store someone’s vaccine records in a special ink administered at the same time as an injection.

Verdict

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the BBC that these are false claims.
  • Even Ana Jaklenec, a scientist involved with the aforementioned study has said there is no evidence to support these claims.
  • Bill has been in general targeted due to his philanthropic work in public health.

#2: Fetus Tissue In Vaccines

Claim: Vaccines contain the lung tissue of an aborted fetus

Where did this come from?
A video on one of the biggest anti-vaccine Facebook pages online refers to a study as “evidence” of what goes into the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. 

Verdict

  • The Oxford vaccine developers say that they worked with cloned cells, but these cells “are not themselves the cells of aborted babies”.
  • Dr. David Matthews, from Bristol University, said that any traces of the cells are comprehensively removed from the vaccine “to exceptionally high standards”
  • So the narrator’s interpretation is incorrect as that study just explored how the vaccine reacted when introduced to human cells in a lab.

#3: Vaccine Alters Your DNA

Claim: Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna will change the recipient’s DNA for worse.

Where did this come from?
Social media videos and posts are spreading this theory since May. They have noted that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology “has never been tested or approved before”.

Verdict

  • Both the vaccines in question are made of mRNA, not DNA.  
  • This messenger RNA in the vaccine acts like an ‘instruction manual’ for our cells, telling them how to guard against the SARS-COV-2 virus. But this component never enters the DNA’s location i.e the nucleus of our cells.
  • As for safety checks, there are 3 Phases of clinical trials for any vaccine. In Phase 1 and 2, shots are tested for small numbers of volunteers to determine their right dose. In Phase 3 trials, they are tested in a larger population, to see their effectiveness.

#4: Low Recovery Rate From A Vaccine

Claim: Chances of dying from Covid-19 are slim, so we don’t need a vaccine.

Where did this come from?
A meme shared by anti-vaccine propagators put the recovery rate from Covid-19 at 99.97%. So it suggested getting the virus as a safer option, than getting vaccinated.

Verdict

  • Firstly, the recovery rate is not 99.97% i.e 3 in 10,000 people who catch COVID will survive it. 
  • As per senior statistician at Oxford, Jason Oke says only  99.0% of people who catch Covid survive it i.e 100 in 10,000 will die.
  • He added that “in all cases, the risks very much depend on age and do not take into account short and long-term morbidity from Covid-19”.
  • Breaking down taking of a vaccine to an individual act misses the point of vaccinations, says Prof Liam Smeeth from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Curiopedia
  • The term “conspiracy theory” is itself the subject of a conspiracy theory, which claims the term was popularized by the CIA in order to discredit conspiratorial believers, particularly critics of the Warren Commission(Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy), by making them a target of ridicule.
  • The Eye of Providence is a symbol that depicts an eye, often enclosed in a triangle and surrounded by rays of light or Glory, meant to represent divine providence, whereby the eye of God watches over humanity. A well-known example of the Eye of Providence appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which is depicted on the United States one-dollar bill. The symbol has been taken by some to be evidence of a conspiracy involving the founders of the United States and the Illuminati.
  • HIV/AIDS denialism is the refusal to acknowledge that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), despite the conclusive evidence. The scientific consensus is that the evidence showing HIV to be the cause of AIDS is conclusive and that HIV/AIDS denialist claims are pseudoscience based on conspiracy theories, faulty reasoning, cherry-picking, and misrepresentation of mainly outdated scientific data.

Covid Impact On India’s ‘Band Baaja Baaraat’

Covid Impact On India's 'Band Baaja Baaraat'

As renowned music band Euphoria released a video highlighting the plight of marriage bands in India, let us look at the prevalence of ‘band baaja’ in Indian marriages and the impact of Covid-19 on their life.

Crux of the Matter

Euphoria And Palash Sen
‘Euphoria’ band of Dr. Palash Sen recently released a cover video of the renowned Hindi song Kisi Ki Muskurahaton Pe. The song is originally from the movie Anari directed by Raj Kapoor and was sung by Mukesh.

What’s In The Cover?

  • The video depicts the loss of employment of ‘band baaja’ (music bands) which regularly play in Indian weddings.
  • Euphoria members act as band players in the video.
  • The players are not called for marriages with less number of invited people and restrictions, with a DJ and a film singer being invited instead.

Unemployment For Marriage Bands
Indian marriages are traditionally accompanied by ‘band baaja’ in baaraats (processions). As per Rajeev Jain, Director of Rashi Entertainment:

  • The estimated size of the Indian wedding industry: $50 billion.
  • Estimated number of people directly/indirectly employed: Over 1 crore.

Problems Faced

  • Suffered from months of complete unemployment due to lockdowns.
  • Drastically less or no business due to Covid restrictions.
  • No revenue from lighting as marriages kept in the daytime due to curfew.
  • Team size reduced due to Covid restrictions and cost-cutting.
  • Several states have removed restrictions from the number of band players in weddings. However, people are still cautious and are generally preferring single DJs over band players.

Consequences

  • Several musicians have been forced to sell instruments and do odd chores.
  • They are more susceptible to unemployment due to a lack of training in other labour work.
  • One such case of Mohammed Ali in Delhi has been reported by PTI. Ali bought a mare for renting it in marriages at ₹4 lakh in January but is now ready to sell it at ₹50,000 (September 2020).
  • Several band players have been observed selling vegetables, driving auto rickshaws, etc.

Curiopedia
  • The first electronic devices for performing music were developed at the end of the 19th century. In the 1970s, electronic music began to have a significant influence on popular music, with the emergence of genres such as disco, krautrock, new wave, synth-pop, hip hop and EDM.
  • Mares are used as dairy animals in some cultures, especially by the nomads and formerly nomadic peoples of Central Asia. Fermented mare’s milk, known as kumis, is the national drink of Kyrgyzstan.
  • Raj Kapoor is widely regarded as the greatest showman in the history of Indian cinema and entertainment. He was a two-time nominee for the Palme d’Or grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his films Awaara (1951) and Boot Polish (1954). His performance in Awaara was ranked as one of the top ten greatest performances of all time by Time magazine.

New Covid-19 Strain Steals Xmas In The UK

New Covid-19 Strain Steals Xmas In The UK

A new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 has been found to increase transmission of the disease in parts of the UK. As the UK government has placed some regions including London under new stricter restrictions, let’s know more about this strain and how it will affect the holiday season.

Crux of the Matter

What’s This New Threat?
The new Covid-19 variant carries 17 types of mutations, including 7 in the spike protein, which mediates entry of SARS-COV-2 in human cells. This is worrisome as it is relatively larger than the variants existing globally.


Is It Official?
Yes. The new UK variant, known as VUI–202012/01 or lineage B.1.1.7, was first identified in the county of Kent, England in late September. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, confirmed its existence later on Dec. 14. PM Boris Johnson then said that the variant is up to 70% more transmissible and increases the R number by 0.4.

How Did It Originate?
The variant is said to have emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system, which was unable to beat the virus and instead, became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate.

Will Vaccines Work Against This Strain?
As per experts, vaccines train our immune system to attack different parts of the virus, so even if part of the spike has been mutated, the vaccines will still work. In case of a vaccine escape i.e when the virus changes, it can ‘dodge’ the entire effect of the vaccine and continue to infect people, the shots would have to to be regularly tweaked.

Thus, if a vaccine can even protect 2 out of 3 people from infection, then the R number would fall from 3 to 1 for Covid-19.

Travel Bans In Holiday Season
Despite WHO stating that this strain is ‘not out of control’, many European nations and India are taking precautionary measures by suspending flights, to and from the UK.

Curiopedia
  • Down syndrome is a disorder caused by the presence of extra genetic material from chromosome 21. British physician John Langdon Down first described the physical features of Down syndrome in 1866, and thus the disorder was later named for him.
  • Evolution is a scientific theory that explains how living things change over a long time, and how they have come to be the way they are. Mutation of organisms is an important process in the process of evolution.
  • Viruses have short generation times, and many—in particular RNA viruses—have relatively high mutation rates. This elevated mutation rate, when combined with natural selection, allows viruses to quickly adapt to changes in their host environment.