Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech on Wednesday claimed that its Covid vaccine Covaxin can neutralise both Delta and Omicron variants of coronavirus.
In a statement, Bharat Biotech said, “Results from a study conducted at Emory University demonstrating that sera from subjects who received a booster dose of Covaxin (BBV152) six months after getting a vprimary two-dose series of Covaxin, neutralized the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron and Delta variants.” It also mentioned that earlier studies demonstrated the neutralizing potential of Covaxin against SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern Alpha, Beta, Delta, Zeta and Kappa.
The study will be published on the pre-print server, medRXiv, shortly.
Sera samples from individuals who received a booster of Covaxin were observed to be effective in neutralizing Omicron and Delta variants on a live virus neutralization assay.
The Hyderabad based company claimed that the neutralization activity of Covaxin boosted sera was comparable to what has been observed in mRNA vaccine-boosted sera against the Omicron variant and found more than 90% of all individuals boosted with Covaxin showed neutralizing antibodies.
All participants received an initial two-dose schedule of Covaxin on Day 0 and Day 28.
“As the dominant Covid-19 variant throughout the world, Omicron poses a serious public health concern,” said Mehul Suthar, PhD Assistant Professor, Emory Vaccine Center who led the laboratory analysis.
Data from this preliminary analysis show individuals receiving a booster dose of Covaxin have a significant immune response to both the Omicron and Delta variants. These findings suggest that a booster dose has the potential to reduce disease severity and hospitalizations, said the statement.
“We are in a continuous state of innovation and product development for Covaxin. The positive neutralization responses against the Omicron and Delta variants validate our hypothesis of a multi-epitope vaccine generating both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses. Our goals of developing a global vaccine against Covid-19 have been achieved with the use of Covasxin as a universal vaccine for adults and children,” said Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat Biotech.
“The global impact of Omicron shows us that the fight against Covid-19 continues, and we are encouraged that these data demonstrate the value of Covaxin as a primary and booster vaccine. These results show how a broad-spectrum vaccine has the potential ability to address ever-shifting public health challenges such as new variants and mutations,” said Dr Shankar Musunuri, Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder, Ocugen, Inc.
‘OMICRON IS NOT COMMON COLD’
Meanwhile, in Wednesday’s Health Ministry briefing, Dr V.K. Paul of the Niti Aayog encouraged the people to get vaccinated. “Omicron is not common cold. It’s our responsibility to slow it down. Let’s mask up and get vaccinated, whoever is due. It’s fact they (vaccines) are helpful to an extent. Vaccination is the critical pillar of our Covid response,” he said. “There should be a rational approach for medicine use. We are concerned about the overuse and misuse of drugs. Don’t overuse. It will have an aftermath… Have warm water, do gargles in-home care,” he added.
Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that a total of 115 people died across the world due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 so far, out of which, one death has been reported in India.
Addressing the Health Ministry briefing, Agarwal said, “Total 115 confirmed deaths globally due to Omicron and 1 death in India.” “Omicron has a substantial growth advantage over Delta as per WHO…Data from South Africa, the UK, Canada, Denmark suggests a reduced risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to Delta,” Agarwal said.
Mentioning a steep surge in coronavirus cases across India, he said, “A sharp surge in Covid cases in India with the active cases 9,55,319 today. Emerging states of concern (reporting surge in Covid cases) are Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Gujarat.”
“Emerging states of concerns reporting high positive rates—Maharashtra with a rate positivity rate of 22.39%, West Bengal 32.18%, Delhi 23.1% and Uttar Pradesh 4.47%,” he added.
The Joint Secretary further said that after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meeting on the Covid-19 situation on January 9, the health ministry has revised the discharge policy with severity categorised into mild and moderate cases. “Mild case discharge after at least seven days from testing positive and non-emergency for three successive days, no need for testing prior to discharge,” he further added.
For moderate cases, the Joint Secretary said, “If there is a resolution of symptoms, the patient maintains O2 saturation more than 93% for three successive days (without O2)..such patient will be discharged.”
India recorded as many as 194,720 fresh Covid-19 infections and 442 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Wednesday. Delhi reported 27,561 new Covid-19 cases during the past 24 hours, the highest number of cases in a single day in the past eight months. Delhi had reported 28,395 cases on April 20 last year during the second wave of Covid-19. 40 people succumbed to the coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours, the same as June 4 last year. Mumbai reported 16,420 cases.
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‘HM SAID, JAYANT IN WRONG ALLIANCE, DOORS OPEN FOR HIM’
Amit Shah met more than 200 Jat leaders on Wednesday.
Ahead of the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on 10 February, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Jat leaders in the national capital on Wednesday.
The meeting was attended by Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan, and BJP MPs Satyapal Singh and Parvesh Verma. Western Uttar Pradesh BJP leaders Mohit Beniwal and Captain Abhimanyu were also present in the meeting. More than 200 Jat leaders attended the meeting held at MP Parvesh Verma’s residence.
During the meeting, the Home Minister is supposed to have said that RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary has chosen the wrong path, referring to the RLD-SP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. According to Parvesh Verma, “On (RLD chief)
Jayant Chaudhary, he (HM Amit Shah) said that there are many possibilities after the polls. For now, he has chosen a party. People of the Jat community will speak to Jayant. BJP’s doors are always open for him.”
“We wanted to welcome (RLD chief) Jayant Chaudhary to our home (BJP) but he has chosen the wrong path,” the BJP MP added.
Responding to this news, RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary tweeted, “Don’t give this invitation to me. Give it to all those 700 farmers’ families whose houses you have destroyed.”
At the meeting, Amit Shah also said, “There are some similarities between you (Jat leaders) and us (BJP). You have fought with Mughals for around 650 years. Just like, Jats do not think only about themselves, but always prioritise nation’s security, BJP also has the same ideology.”
He also said, “We have revoked Articles 370 and 35(A) because you have voted us to power since 2014. You have always supported us.”
Citing the example of farmers, Shah stated that both Jat and BJP think about the welfare of farmers. “We have also worked for implementing ‘one rank one pension’ under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many youths who belong to the Jat community are already working in the Defence sector. Only BJP has given Ministers from the Jat community. You (Jats) have always strengthened the party,” he added.
“Under the leadership of PM Modi, we have given around Rs 80,000 crore to farmers. Work of Ganga Expressway has started. The maintenance yard will be built in Jewar. Work is underway to transform Agra, Saharanpur, Mathura and Firozabad into smart cities. Medical Park is about to be built. Now the state ranks at first place for the market of sugarcane, wheat and mango,” the Home Minister said.
Reacting to Shah’s statements, Captain Abhimanyu, Western Uttar Pradesh BJP leader said that the party does politics of nationalist ideology. “For us, the nation is first, then party. This state was being exploited by foreign invaders, but now, BJP is working to save the interest of farmers in the state,” Abhimanyu added.
Another attendee to the meeting said, “We have demanded a Bharat Ratna for (former PM) Chaudhary Charan Singh, reservation for Jats and proportionate representation in Central government and Uttar Pradesh government. The Home Minister has responded positively to our demands.”
Baghpat BJP MP Satyapal Singh said that no Jat leader or member of the Jat community was angry with the party. “Such a meeting is not being held for the first time. Before this, meetings with the Brahmin community and other sections of society have also been held. Every section of society will make the Bharatiya Janata Party alliance win,” he said.
On the SP-RLD coalition, Satyapal Singh said, “There is no support base for SP and RLD on the ground.”
Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan, known to be one of the biggest leaders of the Jat community in western Uttar Pradesh, said that the meeting was on the agenda of the elections. He said that the meeting was supposed to be held earlier but could not be held due to the COVID situation.
On the resentment of the farmers of the Jat belt, Balyan said, “This perception is created before the elections but in the elections, Jats always vote for the BJP. Jats have always voted for the BJP. They voted for BJP in 2014, 2017 and in 2019. This time also Jats will vote for BJP. Nobody wants Akhilesh Yadav to become the Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh.”
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is one of the BJP’s star campaigners for Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, will campaign in the western region of the state on Thursday. The senior BJP leader will attend a “Chaupal” in Bagpat and interact with people at Modinagar in Ghaziabad during campaigning.
AKHILESH DEFENDS CRIMINAL CANDIDATES
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday defended the party’s decision to give tickets to some candidates facing criminal cases and said most of these cases had been filed by the BJP government.
“Gayatri Prajapati’s wife doesn’t have any case against her, cases are against the husband. Most cases against Azam Khan were lodged under BJP rule. As far as Nahid Hasan is concerned, BJP (government) lodged most cases against him,” Akhilesh Yadav said. Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya on Tuesday slammed Akhilesh Yadav saying that his party and his allies cannot stop BJP from returning to power and alleged that SP was giving tickets to criminals.
“SP will not be able to stop the lotus of BJP from blooming in the state. The list of candidates that the SP has released for the upcoming elections shows that it is not a political party but the party of gangsters, criminals, mafias. They are not fighting polls in UP but threatening the people of the state. I wish to tell him that however many criminals you give tickets to, your cycle is punctured and will remain punctured,” he had said.
Samajwadi Party has given ticket for upcoming UP polls to jailed former Uttar Pradesh minister Gayatri Prajapati’s wife Maharaji Devi from Amethi. Lok Sabha MP Azam Khan, SP candidate from Rampur seat, is lodged in Sitapur jail since February 2020 as many cases are registered against him.
SP’s candidate from Kairana Nashid Hasan was arrested by UP police earlier this month under the Gangsters Act and is currently in judicial custody.
WORLD LEADERS WISH INDIA ON REPUBLIC DAY
Many heads of states and governments extended their wishes on India’s 73rd Republic Day and highlighted the country’s special place and importance in the world. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his message spoke about how the two countries were “tied by bonds that span over decades”.
Johnson in his message wrote, “Want to send my best wishes from the UK to the people of India, and to all British Indians, on India’s Republic Day. The UK and India are tied by bonds that span over decades, through generations and across some of the greatest challenges we have faced.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison also extended his wishes to India on the occasion. Morrison wrote in a tweet, “Australia and India enjoy a wonderful friendship. While, we celebrate Australia Day today, I also extend my very best wishes to my good friend Narendra Modi and all Indians on Republic Day.”
The United States also released an official statement extending Republic Day eve greetings to India and expressing hope for the future of bilateral ties.
Another statement was issued by the United Kingdom’s Ministry Of Foreign Affairs which read, “As two diverse democracies, we are proud of our strong friendship, demonstrated by the launch of free trade negotiations this month and our partnership manufacturing the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine, we look forward to fortifying those bonds as we bring our ambitions, people, and economies together to prosper for the next 75 years and beyond.”
India celebrated its 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday, with a grand parade on the Rajpath, apart from parades in different state capitals. Republic Day was also celebrated in Indian high commissions, embassies and consulates across the globe. From this year the Government of India has decided that Republic Day celebrations will be a week-long programme which will commence on 23 January, the birth anniversary of the great freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, and culminate on 30 January which is observed as Martyrs’ Day.
TRAIN SET ON FIRE, RAILWAY RECRUITMENT EXAM POSTPONED
Railway Ministry forms panel to look into the concerns of the aspirants.
Indian Railways have postponed the Railway Recruitment Board or RRB NTPC examination following the ruckus created by students in Bihar protesting against alleged irregularities in Non-Technical Popular Categories examinations.
A committee led by Principal Executive Director (Industrial Relations) of the Railway Ministry, Deepak Peter Gabriel was formed on Wednesday to look into the concerns of the students who are complaining against alleged irregularities in RRB exams.
Several videos showing protesters in different parts of Bihar disrupting train operations and destroying railway property have gone viral. “Almost over 1,000 students have been protesting and we are on the site, we still need to monitor the situation,” a member from the police told The Daily Guardian.
The matter got sensitive when some aspirants set on fire a train in Gaya, Bihar. Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav urged the students not to take the law into their hands and assured them of addressing their concerns. “I request students not to take the law into their hands. We will seriously address the grievances and concerns raised by them. Whatever concern students want to share, they can share with the committee set up by Railway Ministry and we will take note of it but do not take law and order in your hands,” he said.
Indian Railways have also issued a warning against the protesting aspirants with a lifetime disqualification from the recruitment process, which is currently under review by the ministry.
The second round of exams, RRB NTPC CBT-2, scheduled to be conducted on 19 February, has been postponed for now. The committee has plans to review the results of RRB NTPC CBT-1 without impacting the shortlisted candidates. The Railway Ministry has also released an email ID to address the concerns of the students. The aspirants have three weeks until 12 February to report their concerns, and after that, the committee will examine them and make recommendations by March 4.
One of the protesters said, “CBT 2 exam date was not notified; there was no update
on railway exam which was notified in 2019. The result is still awaited. We demand cancellation of CBT 2 exam and release of exam result.”
However, currently, the situation is stable and as per local sources, some of the miscreants have been arrested. Gaya SSP Aditya Kumar said: “We want to tell the students that they should not get influenced by anyone and not damage the government’s property. A committee has been formed by the government to look into the matter.”
The RRB NTPC CBT 1 results were issued on 14 January for all five levels, and shortlisted candidates were to participate for CBT 2, which was to be held separately for each level. However, the NTPC exam has been postponed for the time being and further details are still awaited.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
‘Suspense thriller’ is a genre that leverages itself to the audio space: Anshuman Jha
In this exclusive interview, actor Anshuman Jha talks about his debut in the audio-based medium with the audiobook ‘Bombay Stranglers Ke Khauffnaak Tapes.’ He extensively describes his experience working on the project with writer Piyush Jha.
Actor Anshuman Jha’s debut Audible Original, Bombay Strangler Ke Khauffnaak Tapes, written by author Piyush Jha, is gaining acclaim from the fans of the emerging community of audiobook-lovers. We hosted Anshuman for a frank interview as part of our special series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
We firstly asked the actor about what convinced him to take up his first audio-based project. To this, Anshuman replied, “For an audio debut for me, something had to be unique and exciting enough.” Expressing gratitude for the role, he said, “All credit for it should go to Mr Piyush Jha who’s an exceptional writer. He has written some bestselling books including Mumbaistan which I really like.” According to the actor, Piyush had made up his mind to cast Anshuman as the narrator in the ideation stage itself.
Talking about the audiobook, Anshuman stated, “Bombay Strangler… is essentially a suspense thriller. It’s a genre I personally love. It’s a genre that also leverages itself to the audio space.” He described his experience with the audio-based medium and said, “I have heard it and I was really amazed because it sucks you into the universe, and to think that you don’t have any visuals and still be so mesmerized and so affected by what you’re listening.”
“It can be done simultaneously. So you could be driving and listening; you could be cooking and listening… It’s not something that needs all your focused attention,” said Anshuman while talking about why the new medium is a disruptive force in the entertainment industry.
We then asked Jha about the extra efforts he had to put in to convey expressions using just his voice.”A bit of both because by nature, the way I am, I can’t do anything just like that. So I asked Piyush sir what’s the space,” said the actor. He added, “The beauty about Bombay Strangler… is that it happens over a space of ‘X’ number of days.” Explaining that the script required a lot of tension in the storytelling, Anshuman said, “There had to be a lot of energy.”
Speaking about challenges he had to overcome for his debut role in an audiobook, Anshuman revealed, “For me, the preparation was how to break my pre-conceived notion of being subtle with voice because I had to be subtle in a different way.” Appreciating the support he received from the production team, the actor stated, “I’m very, very grateful that I got to be a part of it.”
For our last question, we asked Anshuman about his plans for 2022, to which he revealed his biggest plan of the year, “I think I’m gonna get married this year, firstly. That’s gonna happen because it’s been long pending and we’ve been waiting for COVID to go.” He further expressed hope of the world getting rid of the pandemic. “Before a flame extinguishes, it gives its last sparks. So I hope it’s the last bit that it’s doing and now it leaves us,” said the actor hopefully.
Watch the full interview here:
I did not know the magnitude of this entire world: Shefali Shah
In this exclusive interview, Shefali Shah tells us about her experience working on her latest project, ‘Human’. She also speaks about her professional relationship with her husband and the series’ producer, Vipul Shah.
Shefali Shah’s latest project, Human, is based on the underbelly of the global pharmaceutical industry. The show has received praises from the audience and critics alike. We hosted Shefali for a frank interview as part of our special series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Our first question to Shefali was about the part that compelled her to take up Human. Shefali said about the script, “When I read it, I was shocked.” She continued, “I have read about trials and I have heard about it, but it is just the surface, you know. There is so much that goes on behind getting a drug from manufacturing it to testing it to getting it into the market.” The actor went on to say about the project, “The script and the role [were] unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”
Speaking about the reality of drug testing in the pharmaceutical industry, Shefali stated, “Yes, we do not know the backstory and we’ll probably never know the entire backstory of it.” She further said, “When you take a cosmetic product, it says, ‘not tested on animals,’ but when you take a strip of medicine, there’s no such disclaimer put on it.” Narrating her amazement on coming across the script involving human drug trials, the actor recounted, “Until I heard the whole theme from Mozez and Vipul, I did not know the magnitude of this entire world…and everything that goes into it.” Commenting on the theme of the series and its relevance in a world marred by a pandemic, Shefali told us, “It’s a very pertinent topic, irrespective of the situation we are in.”
Talking about her love for thriller movies, Shefali said, “I love watching thrillers. As far as doing is concerned, I’m a very greedy actor, and rightfully so, and I want to do every genre possible.”
Describing her professional relationship with her husband and Human producer, Vipul Shah, Shefali said, “Whether it’s from Vipul or somebody else, when a project comes to me, he’s the first one I discuss it [with].” The actor added, “The same goes with Vipul. When he’s planning something, I’m the one he’ll talk to, or I’m probably one of the first ones to read his script.” Stressing upon the professionalism the couple maintains in the industry, Shefali revealed, “I will never tell him to make something for me, one. Two, he will never offer me something if it’s not worth my value.”
“OTT has opened horizons for all creative people. And the best part of it is, it is not determined by the box office,” said Shefali while putting forward her opinion on OTT platforms. She continued the thought, “It is not determined by the prototypes that were required in commercial films: a hero, a heroine, a star system, a dance number, a fight sequence etc.” Shefali described the entertainment industry after the emergence of OTT platforms as “rich and thriving.” She also said, “As an actor, it’s(OTT) opened a completely different world for me.”
Watch the full interview here:
I love the fact that people still call me ‘Anandi’: Avika Gor
In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, Avika shared her experiences of working in the South film industry, her latest movie releases and much more.
Recognized for her stellar performance in the show ‘Balika Vadhu’, actor Avika Gor recently joined us for a fun chat. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, Avika shared her experience of working in the South film industry, her latest movie releases, and much more.
Speaking about her journey from working as ‘Anandi’ in Balika Vadhu to venturing into the South film industry, Avika Gor said, “The journey has been lovely. The kind of support I have received from my audience has been overwhelming at times because they make me feel like a part of their family. I don’t anybody has ever got this amount of love. I feel blessed.”
The actor further revealed how it has been like to break out of the character of ‘Anandi’ and create her own identity. She said, “I honestly don’t want to get out of that character. I love the fact that people still call me ‘Anandi’. It’s just a part of me and I don’t want to get rid of it. Also, the kind of movies and characters I am approached for, all have a sense of innocence I had when I played ‘Anandi’. It’s been 14 to15 years since I’ve been working and people aren’t bored of me.”
Talking about the reactions she received on her recent movie ‘NET’ available on Zee5, Avika exclaimed, ‘Of course, I loved the response. NET has been of those experimental movies that I was a part of and I never thought people would like me in a thriller. I always thought Rom-Com is my zone and people enjoy me in that, but this movie was an experiment and I am glad I showed the courage to do something very different. Another movie named ‘#BRO’ that I worked for was very different again. Characters that I play are all challenging and it just feels amazing to do a different kind of work and not just one character for 7 to 8 years. This is also the reason why I took a step away from the TV and took up all these challenges.”
When asked if the audience could witness her comeback on TV, the actor revealed that she is currently tied up with a lot of movie work and so her comeback is difficult. Avika then spoke about the difference between the Indian television space and the South film industry. “There is a lot of difference in the two industries, but the biggest similarity that I have found is that people love their work. They work with a lot of passion and that’s there in any industry. I have been blessed to be a part of such amazing teams everywhere that it’s always fun to be around them.”
Lastly, the NET actor suggested the viewers to get themselves vaccinated when they are allowed to.
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