Coronavirus Live Updates: Daily vaccination plunged by 35%, says report; Moderna, Pfizer vaccines in pipeline

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Coronavirus LATEST Updates

Anthony Fauci, US officials call for COVID origin probe

Top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci called for further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, after a Wall Street Journal report about illnesses at a Chinese virology lab raised new questions about where COVID-19 may have come from. "Because we don’t know 100 percent what the (virus) origin is, it is imperative that we look and investigate," Fauci said.

At the White House COVID-19 briefing, senior adviser Andy Slavitt said finding the origin of the virus is a "critical priority". "We need transparent process from China. We need to get to bottom of this whatever the answer may be and that's critical priority for us," he said.

09:32 (IST)

Coronavirus LATEST Updates

Jaishankar discusses need to ramp up vaccine production in meeting with UN chief

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held a comprehensive in-person meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and discussed the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and underlined the importance of finding an "urgent and effective" global vaccine solution to fight the deadly disease.

Jaishankar appreciated the efforts of the Secretary General to facilitate Vaccines for All'. He and Guterres discussed the need to ramp up global vaccine production through expanded supply chains. "This was imperative to ensure fairer distribution of vaccines globally in the coming days. The proposal by India and South Africa for TRIPS waiver of vaccine patents can also contribute to greater production and more equity," the statement said.

Coronavirus LATEST News and Updates: On a day when India's daily count of coronavirus cases in the country fell below the 2-lakh mark after over a month, a report by CRISIL suggested that India may be already past the peak of its second wave. India also crossed a major landmark with more than 20 crore cumulative vaccine doses administered so far, however, the overall rate of inoculation remained lower than the previous weeks.

The active caseload has been trending downward for the second week in a row as daily cases declined 22 percent sequentially in the week ended 23 May, which is faster than the 15 percent fall the week before, CRISIL said in its report. This means that the infections may have crossed the peak on 6 May, when the country had reported 4.14 lakh cases. Daily new cases now average 2.5 lakh, down from 3.3 lakh in the week ended 16 May.

Today the country reported 1,96,427 new coronavirus infections taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 2,69,48,874, while the death toll rose to 3,07,231 with 3,511 fresh fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The daily COVID-19 positivity rate has reduced and now stands at 9.54 percent, while the single-day recoveries continue to outnumber the new cases for the 12th consecutive day, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

The active COVID-19 caseload has also reduced to 25,86,782 with a net decline of 1,33,934 cases being witnessed in a span of 24 hours. It now accounts for 9.60 percent of the country's total infections. The active cases have decreased since its last peak on 10 May.

Taking together the decline in new infections, positivity rate and active cases, coupled with improving recovery rate, the country may have crossed the peak of the second wave on 6 May, the report said.

However, states like Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Assam are still under a strong viral grip, on the other hand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan have seen the sharpest declines, it added.

With 34,867 cases reported in the past 24 hours, Tamil Nadu is leading the state list. It is followed by Maharashtra with 22,122 new infections. Karnataka reported 25,311 cases, Kerala 17,821 and Andhra Pradesh 12,994 cases. The case count was 17,883 for West Bengal.

The six most affected states by total cases are Maharashtra (5,602,019), Karnataka (2,450,215), Kerala (2,365,787), Tamil Nadu (1,877,211), Uttar Pradesh (1,673,785), and Andhra Pradesh (1,593,821).

The daily vaccination numbers, however, continue on a downward spiral as distribution bottlenecks and vaccine unavailability stop states from ramping up the inoculation drive.

Daily jabs plunge over 35%: CRISIL report

The daily vaccination has come down to 980 per million people as of May 23, down from 1,455 per million a week earlier and against the world average of 3,564 per million, according to a report by CRISIL.

With the vaccine availability remaining a national bottleneck, the pace of vaccination has been steeply falling and as of 23 May,  daily vaccinations have come down to a low of 980 per million people from 1,455 per million a week earlier, down over 35 percent. The world average is 3,564 per million, the report said.

Though Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Delhi have vaccinated the highest proportion of their population among the respective groups, the pace of vaccination has declined further in May in these states.

Vaccination will further slow down as the availability of the vaccine is going to take time.

The CRISIL reports comes on a day when India crossed a major landmark with more than 20 crore cumulative vaccine doses administered so far. A total of 20,04,94,991 vaccine doses have been administered through 28,41,151 sessions, according to a provisional report prepared at 7 pm on Tuesday.

These include 1,28,74,546 beneficiaries of the age group 18-44 years across 37 States/UTs since the start of Phase-3 of the vaccination drive. Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have administered more than 10 lakh beneficiaries of the age group 18-44 years for their first dose of COVID vaccine. According to the ministry data, 12.82 Lakh vaccination doses were administered in the 18-44 age group in a span of 24 hours.

Moderna unable to supply jabs before 2022; Pfizer wants further relaxation in govt rules

At a time when the global tenders floated by most states to procure vaccine have failed to yield results, reports suggest that the government's plans to procure Moderna and Pfizer shots may still be a distant shot and is unlikely to solve the immediate shortage of jabs.

Moderna is expecting to launch a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine in India only by next year and is in talks with Cipla among other Indian firms, while another US giant Pfizer is ready to offer 5 crore shots in 2021 itself but it wants significant regulatory relaxations including indemnification, sources told PTI on Tuesday.

While Moderna has conveyed to Indian authorities that it does not have surplus vaccines to share in 2021, there are limited prospects of Johnson & Johnson exporting its jabs from the US to other countries in the near future, the sources privy to discussions added.

Two rounds of high-level meetings chaired by the Cabinet Secretary were held last week on the availability of vaccines in the global as well as domestic markets as it was felt that there is an urgent need to procure the jabs at a time the country is reeling under an unprecedented second wave of COVID-19 and a widening gap between supply and requirement.

Currently, the country is using two 'made-in India' jabs, Covishield and Covaxin, to inoculate its billion-plus population and has administered 20 crore doses since launching the world's largest vaccination drive in mid-January. A third vaccine, Russian-made Sputnik V, has been approved by the government and is being used on a smaller scale at present.

According to a source, for the supply of vaccines to India, Pfizer has asked for indemnification from the Government of India and a document in this regard has been received from Pfizer Inc. Further, Pfizer has also sought certain relaxations in the regulatory regime, including relaxation in the requirement of post-approval bridging trials and dispensing the requirement of testing their vaccines in CDL (Central Drugs Laboratory).

As per the information furnished by Pfizer, around 116 countries in the world including the USA have signed the indemnification document.

Further, considering that over 14.7 crore doses of Pfizer had been administered worldwide without any significant reports of adverse effects, a view needs to be taken to indemnify the company in order to supplement the availability of vaccines in India, officials discussed at one recent meeting.

More children infected with COVID, no need for panic but important to vaccinate: experts

More children are testing positive in the second COVID-19 wave but the infection is mostly mild and the mortality rate low, say experts, citing increased testing and enhanced understanding of symptoms as among the possible reasons for the rising graph.

Though there is enough anecdotal evidence of COVID-19 catching children early teens and younger there is little reason to panic, said several doctors and scientists. They also stressed on the urgent need to vaccinate children to stem the spread of the infection.

There is a general increase or shift in infection numbers towards children and younger groups as compared to older people, agreed virologist Upasana Ray.

This could be because the virus had already infected more of the older age groups last year, leading to the development of immunity in those who recovered from various degrees of the infection.

Eventually, this age group was prioritised for getting vaccinated as well which added to the pool of elderly individuals with immunity against this virus, Ray, from Kolkata's CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, told PTI.

In Ray's view, in the present COVID-19 surge, the virus is infecting those to whom it has more access due to lack of immunity, that is, younger people. Children account for about 3-4 percent of hospital admissions, in both India and the rest of the world, Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul said recently.

'Maybe re-look advisory barring repeat of RTPCR on COVID positive patients'

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday suggested to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that it may need to re-look its recent advisory which said RTPCR must not be repeated on an individual who tested positive by either Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) or RTPCR.

Justice Rekha Palli asked the counsel for ICMR to take instructions on the issue saying "maybe you need to re-look your advisory".

The suggestion by the court came while hearing a plea by a lawyer who has challenged the advisory as due to it, neither he nor his family members could get tested again after spending more than 17 days in quarantine from 28 April when they first tested positive.

The lawyer told the court that without a COVID negative report the civil defense guards outside his residence were not permitting him to go out for even basic essential items and when he tried to get tested at a lab, they declined to test him due to the 4 May advisory of ICMR.

The petitioner has contended that the May 4 advisory was "arbitrary, discriminatory and creates a paradoxical situation since a negative RTPCR report is compulsorily required by several other notifications issued by the respondents (Centre, ICMR and Delhi government)".

He has sought striking down of the clause in the advisory which bars repeating of an RTPCR test on someone who has already tested positive. The petition also seeks directions to the Delhi government to permit testing of the petitioner and his parents.

No home isolation to be allowed in 18 Maharashtra districts with high positivity rate

The Maharashtra government has decided to stop home quarantining of COVID-19 patients in 18 of the total 36 districts of the state which have reported high positivity rates, and all active patients in these areas would be admitted to COVID Care Centers, health minister Rajesh Tope said here on Tuesday.

The districts of Satara, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Osmanabad, Beed, Raigad, Pune, Hingoli, Akola, Amravati, Kolhapur, Thane, Sangli, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Nashik, Ahmednagar and Latur have above-average positivity rates, as per the health department data.

Ordinarily, asymptomatic patients or those who have mild symptoms of coronavirus infection are advised home isolation.

The state has 3,27,000 active COVID-19 cases and the recovery rate has improved to 93 percent. The case positivity rate -- proportion of positive cases in tested samples -- is around 12 percent while the case fatality rate is 1.5 percent, Tope told reporters here.

But the positivity rate in 18 districts is higher than the state average, he said.

Bharat Biotech expects EUL from WHO for Covaxin in July- September

Bharat Biotech on Tuesday said it expects approval for its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin from the World Health Organisation for Emergency Use Listing between July and September. The company said regulatory approvals for Covaxin are in process in more than 60 countries, including the USA, Brazil and Hungary, among others.

"Application for EUL has been submitted to WHO-Geneva. Regulatory approvals are expected July-September 2021," it said in a release.

Emergency Use Listing (EUL) is a procedure to streamline the process by which new or unlicensed products can be used during public health emergencies, according to WHO guidelines. The latest 'Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ evaluation process guidance document dated May 18 on the WHO website said Bharat Biotech submitted EOI (Expression of Interest) on April 19 and that "more information required".

A pre-submission meeting is expected "to be planned May-June 2021," the WHO website said. Sources had earlier indicated that Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL) has conveyed to the Centre that it has already submitted 90 percent of documents to WHO for obtaining EUL for Covaxin.

The remaining documents are expected to be submitted by June, the city-based vaccine maker reportedly had told the Central Government during a discussion on obtaining WHOs authorisation for EUL for Covaxin. The city-based vaccine maker said it has got EUA in 13 countries with more to follow.

With inputs from PTI


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