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COVID-19: PFIZER-BIONTECH VACCINE FOUND 90% EFFECTIVE

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US-based pharmaceutical major Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech on Monday said that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 in first interim analysis of data from late-stage Phase 3 trial.

Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla called the development “a great day for science and humanity”.

With the pandemic having killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide so far, the announcement raises hope that effective vaccine dose could be on its way, and if approved, before the end of this year itself.

The two companies said that their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, has demonstrated evidence of efficacy against Covid-19 in participants without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for Covid-19.

The analysis was conducted on Sunday by an external, independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) from the Phase 3 clinical study.

The case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 per cent, at seven days after the second dose, the two companies said.

This means that protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of a two-dose schedule.

As the study continues, the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary.

The DMC has not reported any serious safety concerns and recommends that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned.

The data will be discussed with regulatory authorities worldwide, Pfizer and BioNTech said.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent Covid-19,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” Bourla added.

The Phase 3 clinical trial of BNT162b2 began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 38,955 of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as on November 8.

The trial is continuing to enroll and it also will evaluate the potential for the vaccine candidate to provide protection against Covid-19 in those who have had prior exposure to SARS-CoV-2, as well as vaccine prevention against severe Covid-19 disease.

“We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks,” Bourla said.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they are continuing to accumulate safety data and currently estimate that a median of two months of safety data following the second (and final) dose of the vaccine candidate will be available by the third week of November.

Along with the efficacy data generated from the clinical trial, the two companies are working to prepare the necessary safety and manufacturing data to submit to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to demonstrate the safety and quality of the vaccine product produced.

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First BSF contingent arrives in Madurai ahead of Tamil Nadu Assembly polls

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New Delhi [India], February 28 (ANI): The first contingent of 1,130 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel from nine companies arrived in Madurai on Sunday ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
Nine companies have been deployed in Madurai and its adjoining areas following the announcement of the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.
The BSF personnel were taken for a COVID-19 test immediately after they arrived at the Madurai Railway Station from Assam. They were later sent in different groups to Tenkasi, Tuticorin and Nagercoil districts for election security.
Ahead of the scheduled assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, an all-party meeting was also held on Saturday at the residence of the district collector, T Anbalagan, in Madurai.
The 234 members Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of the votes will be done on May 2.
Ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is contesting the polls in a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has joined hands with Congress. This time actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan’s party Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) is also in the fray. (ANI)

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Attack on Krishna Dhaba proof of ongoing attempts to oust ‘minorities’ from J-K: BJP leader

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Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 28 (ANI): Expressing grief over Krishna Dhaba owner’s son Akash Mehra’s death, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kavinder Gupta on Sunday said the ‘targetted’ attack is proof that there are still ongoing attempts to oust the ‘minorities’ from the region.
“We heard the sad news about the death of Krishna Dhaba’s owner’s son. This type of targeted attack is proof that there are still ongoing attempts to oust the minorities from the region. Because the situation is improving in Jammu and Kashmir, some terrorist organisations are actively trying to create panic in the region,” said Gupta.
“We will not tolerate such activities otherwise the situation of 1989-1990 will be repeated. It is very important to stop such attacks,’ he added.
The BJP leader further commented that the Indian security forces are doing commendable work to stop terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, but added, “the attacks on Krishna Dhaba and Shakti sweets show there are efforts to bring back the ‘militancy in the region.”
The son of the owner of popular food joint Krishna Dhaba, who was injured in the terrorist attack on the eatery, succumbed to his injuries on Sunday morning.
“Woke up to extremely distressing news. Young Akash Mehra who was shot at by terrorists at Krishna Dhaba has succumbed to his injuries at SMHS Hospital. I share the pain and grief of his family and stand by them as they mourn this inconsolable loss. May his soul rest in peace,” Junaid Azim Mattu, Mayor of Srinagar in a tweet.
On February 17, terrorists belonging to the ‘Muslim Jaanbaz Force’, an offshoot of proscribed terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked Krishna Dhaba’ in Srinagar’s Durganag area when 24 foreign diplomats were visiting the union territory.
Two days later, Jammu and Kashmir police arrested three terrorists of ‘Muslim Jaanbaz Force’ in connection with the attack, which police said was aimed at terrorising non-locals living in the valley and disrupting tourist activity.
The arrested terrorists were identified as Suhail Ahmad Mir, resident of Dangerpora Nowgam, Owais Manzoor Sofi, resident of Dangarpora and Vilayat Aziz Mir, a resident of Hanipora Wampora Pulwama.
The police had said that the arrest of the trio and the recovery of weapon of crime (pistol) and grenade, along with other incriminating material including the bike used by them, within hours of attack is a big success for the Jammu and Kashmir police. (ANI)

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UP managed to control Encephalitis by 75 per cent: CM Yogi Adityanath

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Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) [India], February 28 (ANI): Uttar Pradesh managed to control the Encephalitis disease by 75 per cent and the fatality rate due to it has reduced by 95 per cent in the past four years, said Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday.
While inaugurating a campaign here to create awareness about communicable diseases, Adityanath said, “In 2017, we started a special vaccination programme to aware citizens about Encephalitis. As a result, the state managed to control the disease by 75 per cent and the death rate due to the disease reduced by 95 per cent in the past four years.”
“We will fully control the disease in coming years. United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) also supported to make this program a success,” he added.
The campaign will formally start from March 1 and will continue till March 31.
Adityanath said that after coming to power in 2017, the government started a special campaign to control Encephalitis disease. “We formed special teams for treatment and controlling the disease,” he said.
Last week, Adityanath launched the Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine drive and administered the vaccine drops to children in Lucknow. (ANI)

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Kerala polls: LDF releases its election campaign slogan

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Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) [India], February 28 (ANI): The Left Democratic Front (LDF) officially released the assembly election campaign slogan “Yes for sure it’s LDF” at a function at AKG Centre in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday.
CPI (M) Kerala State secretary A Vijayaraghan handed over the tagline for the campaign to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a function at the party headquarters.
Vijayaraghavan said the slogan “Yes for sure it’s LDF” conveys an assurance that the LDF would come back to power.
Prior to its official release, hoardings with the tagline were put up across the State in the last 12 hours.
The posters that were released at the function have pictures of development activities and welfare schemes implemented by the Kerala government.
CPI (M) leaders including Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, KN Balagopal also attended the function.
The election for 140-member Kerala Assembly in 14 districts will be held in a single phase on April 6. The counting of votes will be held on May 2. (ANI)

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Rahul Gandhi was on vacation when fisheries ministry was formed by NDA: Amit Shah

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Puducherry [India], February 28 (ANI): After repeated gaffe by Rahul Gandhi on no dedicated ministry to deal with the issues of fishermen, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the Congress leader was on vacation when the NDA formed the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying in 2019.

“Some days ago, Rahul Gandhi had asked why there is no fisheries department. I want to know from people whether they want a leader who doesn’t know that Department of Fisheries has been in existence for 2 years (since 2019),” Shah said at a public rally ahead of assembly elections in the Union Territory Puducherry’s Karaikal district.

Questioning the capability of the Congress party to govern the Puducherry, he said, “Can the Congress party do the welfare of Puducherry?

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had demanded the setting up of a separate ministry for fisheries at a meeting in Puducherry. The Wayanad MP’s comments came at an interaction with the fishing community in Kollam’s Thangassery on February 24.

“Just like our farmers farm the land, you farm the sea. Farmers have a Ministry in Delhi, you don’t. No one speaks for you in Delhi. The first thing I would do is to have a ministry dedicated to the fishermen of India so that your issues can be defended and protected,” said the Congress leader.
He made a similar gaffe in Puducherry earlier this month. In Puducherry, Gandhi had demanded the setting up of a separate ministry for fisheries.

However, the Congress leader’s comments came in for immediate rebuttal by Union Minister Giriraj Singh, who had also taken a swipe at Gandhi’s ignorance and attempt to “spread misinformation”.

Singh had said, “Rahul Gandhi is unaware that a separate ministry for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying was formed by the Prime Minister in 2019, adding that Gandhi can’t come out of Italy.”(ANI)

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Kerala NCP to finalise candidates after seat sharing with LDF: Saseendran

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Kochi (Kerala) [India], February 28 (ANI): Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will initiate the candidate selection for Kerala polls after seat-sharing with Left Democratic Front (LDF) is finalised, said State Transport Minister and NCP leader AK Saseendran on Sunday.
Speaking to the media in Kochi during NCP’s state executive meeting, Saseendran said the key factor while choosing the candidate will be their chances of victory in the upcoming polls.
“The seats which the NCP is contesting will be decided after discussion in the LDF. After that, we will meet and decide on the candidates. It needs the approval of the central leadership. The key factor of a candidate is the chances of victory. Giving seats to newcomers will also be discussed,’ he said.
When asked if he will be contesting in the upcoming, the NCP leader said, “It is up to the party to decide whether I will contest or not. Whatever the party decides, I will be happy.”
The election for 140-member Kerala Assembly in 14 districts will be held in a single phase on April 6.
The tenure of the 14th Kerala legislative assembly will come to an end on June 1, 2021. A total of 2,67,88,268 electors will elect the candidates in Kerala for the 15th legislative assembly.
For Assembly poll 2021, the number of polling booths in Kerala has been extended from 21,498 to 40,771. The counting of votes will be held on May 2.
According to the commission, of the 140 Assembly seats, 14 seats are reserved for SC category and two are reserved for ST category candidates. (ANI)

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