Organised by NatHealth as part of its Thought & Leadership series, the session saw a riveting discussion on the future of biotech and the evolving global landscape with the Covid vaccines.
Moderated by Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals, the session centred on the novel coronavirus and ways to tackle it, in addition to discussing the Covid vaccines. The session also saw the participation of Mr Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Secretary General, and Preetha Reddy, President at NatHealth and Vice Chair at Apollo Hospitals, who began by saying, “The past ten months have been tumultuous for humanity. Genomics has been the key word and has made a huge difference with the vaccines. Bill Gates said that what we have done in two months could have taken two decades to achieve.”
Dr. William Haseltine, President at Access Health International, was then welcomed and asked to shed light on what would be the right thing to do, whether in the space of innovation, research, genomics or biotech. He said, “We know this is a new virus, which probably started circulating as early as October 2019. It manifested as an outbreak in Wuhan in a demonstrable way in December. Once it was recognised, the Chinese authorities took very strong measures to control the spread by instituting standard public health measures, which is a tribute to the Chinese government as they had sent people to Harvard School of Public Health for ten years to understand how to control a pandemic. They understood that SARS not only destroyed lives but had the potential to destroy economies. So, they had studied in great detail and implemented almost a textbook case of what to do and it worked in a spectacular way. China is the only country, apart from a few island countries, that instituted that kind of control and managed to quarantine 11 million people. That should’ve taught the world a lesson but it did not.”
Continuing on the topic, he said, “We are still minimising the danger. As a virologist, I’ve learned to look at what actually happens. The lesson from SARS and MERS is that viruses are out there and can adapt to humans. We didn’t do our research on those viruses and we weren’t prepared for the next one. Scientists got everything done, the vaccines were ready, but the money wasn’t there. Another thing we should’ve paid more attention to is that coronaviruses aren’t new and each of us has it every year – we call it the common cold. They keep coming back, like the flu, which is why I said that don’t count on population immunity because it doesn’t exist for these coronaviruses.”
Speaking about the early development of the vaccine and the role of innovation and technology in the process, Dr. Haseltine opined, “Everyone is celebrating how great science is, how we’ve solved this, but we haven’t. These kinds of vaccines work, but our emphasis on high science has led to some problems. For America, it has been a disaster to not rely on public health but high science. The same goes for diagnostics: we felt that we needed fancy ones whereas lateral flow anagen diagnostics work far better and the world still doesn’t have access to tests that we need. That was a fundamental mistake made.”
Elaborating on how he felt that testing for the coronavirus could have been different, Professor Haseltine expressed, “In the early days of detection, the CDC tests didn’t work, they were PCR-based tests. Once the virus was understood, simple antigen tests could have been developed, measuring the concentration of protein in saliva and nasal fluids. But we relied on a test which broke down and is very expensive. Antigen tests are very simple and cheap and can be self-administered and know who’s contagious. This should have been followed by making sure those people are isolated, but this is difficult as people avoid this due to lack of economic support. I believe if the tests are done, you pay people to stay home and have a realistic policy – or ensure that the country’s social system works for everybody.”
Giving an overview of the types of vaccines, their safety, efficacy and which one he would choose if given a choice, Professor Haseltine said, “I would take the simplest one, the killed vaccine, because, one, it has a huge safety record, and, two, it’s a whole virus ,which changes when it’s trying to escape and how the body reacts. The mRNA vaccines are unreliable and we don’t know the full story and adverse reactions. After this, I would prefer subunit vaccines, where you produce a piece of the virus and use it as the antigen. The vaccine I would not prefer is the adenovirus vaccine because it’s usable only once.”
Talking about the logistics, production and distribution across the globe, Dr. Haseltine said, “We know that in the global vaccine business, the two problems are cold chains and multiple doses. Another important component is whether you can get it to every community and to work with trusted community leaders. If this is lacking, people will be afraid to take it.”
Talking about the mutation of the virus, Dr. Haseltine said, “One thing we learned is that the cold coronaviruses come back every year, like the flu. Natural immunity doesn’t last long for these viruses, especially mucosal immunity, the type which stops things from getting into you and you passing it on. The Chinese were lucky because they got the weakest version of this virus. But by February it mutated and transferred across the world. Over the summer, it changed again in different ways to become more transmissible. The mutations are escaping our immunity and becoming more infectious. Another lesson is that vaccines will have to adapt. The virus is like a tree with branches: to deal with it, cut down the tree at the root with public health. This is a lesson we need to push pretty hard if we don’t want to get hit again and again by this tricky virus.”
On being asked about the equitable distribution of the vaccine between the haves and have-nots of the world, Professor Haseltine said, “This is very important. The lesson from all these viruses is that, if we don’t eliminate it everywhere, we don’t eliminate it anywhere. The world has now become small and we’re all connected but more people are required to help each other out.”
Speaking of when people will be able to breathe easy, Dr. Haseltine said, “I have teams of people in China who’re travelling, enjoying life, but they can’t leave the country. Unless countries put in the effort to control the pandemic through public health measures, they won’t get back to normal in the foreseeable future because the vaccine will not do it. There’ll be other variants. Medicine can help the problem but not solve it. To cut it off from the root, we need to combine public health with other measures so it doesn’t exist on the planet anymore, not just in one country. We’re entering a period of vaccine euphoria, but next year it’ll be back like the flu. Another lesson is to pay attention when nature warns us. To get back to normal life, we need to do our best to take the institutions, our leadership, our governance, our social solidarity and science to tune them to their maximum efficiencies in order to have a normal life.”
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Delhi: Boy stabbed for objecting to sister’s molestation
New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): A 17-year-old boy was admitted to AIIMS Trauma Centre on Friday after being beaten up and stabbed by three boys in the Kalkaji area when he objected to them following his sister and passing indecent remarks.
According to Delhi police, a PCR call was received at police station Kalka Ji regarding a boy who had been stabbed near Sarvodya Vidhalya No. 2 Kalkaji and was being taken to AIIMS trauma for treatment.
As per the police, the eye witness (sister of injured) age-18 years, who was present with him at the time of the incident, stated that three boys followed her and passed indecent remarks. When her brother objected, they beat him up and one of them stabbed him on the left side of the abdomen and fled from the spot.
Meanwhile, the girl who was molested told ANI, “It had been going on for 2-3 days. They hit my brother and stabbed him when he objected.”
A case vide FIR No. 95/2021 u/s 307/354(D)/509/34 IPC has been registered and further investigation is going on, the police said, adding that efforts are being made to trace the accused who are residents of J.J.Camp Giri Nagar in the area of police station, Govind Puri. (ANI)
Ministers, supporters greet Yediyurappa on 78th birthday
Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India], February 27 (ANI): Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was warmly greeted by State Ministers and supporters on the occasion of his 78th birthday in his office in Bengaluru on Saturday morning.
Ministers and his supporters greeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader with garlands and bouquets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several union ministers also extended birthday greetings to Yediyurappa, wishing him a long and healthy life.
“Greetings to Karnataka CM @BSYBJP Ji on his birthday. Yediyurappa Ji is one of our most experienced leaders, who has devoted his life towards the welfare of farmers and empowering the poor. Praying for his long and healthy life,” PM Modi tweeted.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal lauded the Chief Minister’s efforts to transform the lives of farmers in the state.
“Warm birthday greetings to CM B.S. Yediyurappa ji @BSYBJP. His efforts to transform the lives of our Annadatas through tech-enabled governance in Karnataka have set a new benchmark. I wish him a long and healthy life,” he tweeted.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too praised Yediyurappa’s work for the upliftment of the poor and empowerment of farmers.
“Best wishes to Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri BS Yediyurappa on his birthday. He has been making a remarkable contribution to Karnataka’s development and doing commendable work while uplifting the poor and empowering the farmers. Praying for his long and healthy life,” Singh tweeted.
“Warm Birthday wishes to the Chief Minister of Karnataka Shri B.S. Yediyurappa. May you be blessed with good health and long life,” Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Born on February 27, 1943, BS Yediyurappa, now 78, was first elected to the lower house of the Karnataka Legislature in 1983 and has since represented the Shikaripur constituency seven times.
He was elected as the Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka on 3rd February 2006 in the JD(S) and BJP Coalition Government. He was sworn in as the 25th Chief Minister of Karnataka on November 12, 2007.
In Karnataka’s 2008 Assembly elections, Yediyurappa contested from Shikaripura won the election and took the oath of office as Chief Minister on May 30, 2008.
He is the first person from the Bharatiya Janata Party to become the Chief Minister of a south Indian state and the first Chief Minister to present a separate agricultural budget. (ANI)
Centre assures Chhattisgarh CM of reimbursing pending food subsidies worth Rs 4,832 crore
Raipur (Chhattisgarh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Union Minister Piyush Goyal has assured Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel of reimbursing pending food subsidies worth Rs 4,832 crores
Baghel on Friday met Union Food and Public Distribution Minister and reiterated his demand of increasing the permitted amount of 24 lakh metric tonnes of rice to be procured under the central pool in FCI to 40 lakh metric tonnes in the Kharif marketing year 2020-21.
He also requested the Union minister to reimburse pending food subsidies for the year 2019-20 and 2020-21 of Rs 5214.97 crore.
“In the interest of farmers of Chhattisgarh, the Centre should give permission for procurement of 40 lakh metric tonnes of rice in the Food Corporation of India at the earliest as 92 lakh metric tonnes of paddy have been procured from 20.53 lakh farmers on the support price in Chhattisgarh in the Kharif marketing year 2020-21, as on 31 January 2021, under the decentralized procurement scheme,” the Chief Minister said.
He said the Food Department has been allowed to take only 24 lakh metric tonnes of rice under the Central pool in the Kharif year 2020-21.
Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey and Food Minister Amarjeet Bhagat also accompanied the chief minister during the meeting. (ANI)
India reports 16,488 new COVID-19 cases, 113 deaths
New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): As many as 16,488 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths were reported in India during the last 24 hours, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Saturday.
With this, the total coronavirus caseload in the country has gone up to 1,10,79,979, including 1,59,590 active cases and 1,07,63,451 discharges.
The COVID-19 death toll reached 1,56,938 on Saturday with additional 113 deaths.
As per the Health Ministry, a total of 1,42,42,547 people in the country have been vaccinated against the virus.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16, 2021. The vaccination of the frontline workers started on February 2.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) informed today that the total number of samples has reached 21,54,35,383 as of Friday, including 7,73,918 samples tested yesterday. (ANI)
Polls for 88 municipality seats in Vadodara to take place on Feb 28
Vadodara (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): Election for 88 seats of three municipalities in Gujarat’s Vadodara district, along with 34 Zilla panchayat seats and 168 taluka panchayat seats will be held on February 28.
While the BJP is riding high after winning all six civic corporation polls held earlier this week, the Congress party believes the hike in fuel prices and public disenchantment with the ruling party will turn the tide.
The remaining 27 districts, which includes 81 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats, will also go to polls on February 28 as well.
According to District Collector Shalini Agarwal, voting for Vadodara’s municipalities will take place between 7 am and 6 pm and several returning officers and assistant returning officers have been deployed for the same.
“9,61,830 voters have registered for the Zilla and taluka panchayat polls and 94,250 have registered for Nagar Palika polls. 1,308 presiding officers and 2,708 polling officers have been deployed,” Agarwal added while addressing a press conference here.
With the polls taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the deployed officers will ensure that government-prescribed COVID-19 guidelines are being adhered to. Health kits and gloves will be provided for the staff and voters respectively, the district collector informed.
“In order to maintain overall law and order, police, group mobile, police magistrate mobile, local police, home guards and SRPs will be deployed,” she added. (ANI)
Kolkata based businessman summoned by CBI in coal scam case
Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], February 27 (ANI): The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday summoned Kolkata based businessman Randhir Barnwal in connection with the coal scam case.
The CBI on Friday conducted raids at multiple properties of the businessman in Kolkata in connection with the coal scam case, said sources.
Many bureaucrats and politicians allegedly received bribes through this businessman, said CBI sources.
Earlier CBI quizzed Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife and sister-in-law in connection with an ongoing coal scam.
Without naming, Abhishek had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government of exploitation of power. (ANI)
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