COVID-19 panel recommends SII's Covishield for emergency use; new cases remain under 30,000 for 19th day

COVID-19 panel recommends SII's Covishield for emergency use; new cases remain under 30,000 for 19th day

COVID-19 panel recommends SII's Covishield for emergency use; new cases remain under 30,000 for 19th day

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) on COVID-19 of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has recommended granting emergency use authorisation for the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield', being manufactured by Serum Institute of India, reports said.

According to a report in CNBC-TV18, the recommendation comes with certain conditions, but didn't elaborate.

report in India Today said the Drug Controller General of India will take a final call on whether or not to approve the vaccine for emergency usage authorisation.

The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has tied up with AstraZeneca to manufacture Covishield vaccine which was developed by scientists at Oxford University. The SEC's recommendation has come days after the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the Oxford vaccine produced by AstraZeneca in the UK for human use.

Meanwhile, the daily new coronavirus infections in India remained below 30,000 for the 19th consecutive day, taking the total caseload to 1,02,86,709.

Additionally, the national recovery rate rose to 96.08 percent with the number of patients having recuperated from the disease at 98.83 lakh, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.

A vaccine distribution dry-run is set to begin in four districts in Maharashtra on Saturday. State health minister Rajesh Tope on Thursday said four districts in the state have been selected for a dry run of the coronavirus vaccine.

Pune, Nagpur, Jalna and Nandurbar have been selected for the dry run, he said in a statement. Three health centres will be set up in each district.

There will be no actual vaccination, but preparations will be made as per the guidelines. There will be a waiting room, vaccination room and
monitoring room, a health centre, as required under the guidelines.

Centre looking at the vaccination effort as a holistic public health response


Sharing details on India's vaccination plan, Dr VK Paul, head of National COVID-19 Task Force had told CNBCTV18 said that the immediate phase will start with a nationwide vaccination of healthcare workers.

"There will be 31 vaccine hubs supplying vaccines to all states. These 31 hubs will supply vaccines to 29,000 vaccination points in last-mile delivery," he said.

Dr Paul also clarified that the Govt has stated that financial resources are not a constraint to vaccinate people.

"India is currently looking at a priority group of 300 million and not the whole population. We're looking at the vaccination effort as a holistic public health response. We want to minimise deaths related to COVID-19 hence chose higher risk groups. As we move along, the stockpiling capacity will also rise. We want to ensure that the entire nation has herd immunity. The ultimate goal is to stall the spread of transmission for which wider vaccination is required," he added.

"We are on the same page with the industry. Formal procurement and agreements will follow soon," he added.

Though there has been no official confirmation yet on the SEC's recommendation to authorise Covishield for emergency use, Dr Paul said that the SEC was close to a decision point on Covishield approval.

"We are definitely at an inflection point with respect to Covishield approval. SEC is to look at data from Indian trials and from other countries. We are close to a decision point on Covishield approval," he told CNBCTV18.

Besides Covishield, the SEC is also looking at the EUA application of Pfizer (filed on 4 December) and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, which had sought the nod for its indigenously developed Covaxin on 7 December.

The SEC on COVID-19 of the CDSCO, which had earlier sought additional safety and immunogenicity data from SII, deliberated on its application seeking emergency use authorisation (EUA) for the shots on Wednesday and met again on Friday to review the matter.

SII had applied to the DCGI for EUA for Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on 6 December.

Schools partially reopen in Kerala and Karnataka

Lectures for Class 10 and 12 began in schools across Kerala on Friday with limited hours and restricted number of students.

It was after a gap of nine months that the schools opened in the southern state, in compliance with strict COVID-19 protocols. Since the lockdown was imposed in March, students were attending online classes through the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education's (KITE)-Victers channel.

They were greeted with digital thermometers at the entrance of schools to measure their body temperature, which is mandatory as per the guidelines issued by the authorities. They were admitted into the school campus only after collecting consent letters from the parents.

A recent high-level meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, had decided to reopen educational institutions, including schools and colleges, in adherence with COVID-19 guidelines.

In its guidelines, the General Education Department directed that only 50 percent of students be allowed at a time in schools and that classes be arranged as one student per bench in the first week.

Guidelines issued by the Director of Public Instructions (DPI) said that 25 percent of the students will be allowed at a time in schools where their strength exceeds 300 in number in classes 10 and 12.

In detailed instructions, the authorities have asked the school managements to ensure masks, sanitizer, digital thermometer and soaps in their institutions.

Meanwhile, in Karnataka, schools and pre-university colleges reopened for students on Friday with strict COVID-19 safety norms.

While regular classes began on Friday for Class 10 and Second-Year PUC (Class 12) students, who will be facing board exams, students from grades 6-9 came to campuses for the Vidyagama programme.

PTI reported that while there was opposition from certain sections about opening schools and pre-university colleges amidst prevailing pandemic situation, others, including Karnataka education minister Suresh Kumar were of the opinion that opening of schools and colleges along with preventive measures were necessary for students, especially in rural areas, with online education being unavailable.

Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa said the school and colleges are restarting in the interest of educational progress of the students.

75 UK returnees to be traced in Karnataka, says govt

Efforts are on to trace 75 people who have travelled to Karnataka from the UK with authorities hopeful of locating them soon, state health minister K Sudhakar said on Friday.

The number of returnees from the UK who have tested positive for the new strain of the coronavirus prevalent in the European nation remained at seven and results of genomic sequencing of 31 others were awaited, he told reporters.

"We are yet to trace 75 people who travelled from the UK... some foreign nationals are also there who might not have local contact numbers, their details have been collected from the immigration department," Sudhakar said.

He said the Home Department has assured all would soon be traced so that they can be tested.

Sudhakar said 70 of the 75 people were from Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the city corporation, limits.

So far, on undergoing RT-PCR test 33 people, who have travelled from the UK, along with five of their contacts have tested positive for COVID taking the number to 38, he said.

All their samples underwent genomic sequencing at NIMHANS, out of which seven have been confirmed being infected by the UK variant, the Minister said.

According to the latest official information, a total of 5,068 people have come to Karnataka from the UK since 25 November, out of which 4,238 people have come since 9 December, and 810 were transit passengers travelling to other states.

"Information regarding 810 passengers has been shared with respective states," he said.

Noting that from Saturday, COVID-19 vaccine dry run will be held in five districts of the state, Sudhakar said, it will be a mock trial ahead of official vaccination to check our preparation.

State-wise details

There are 2,54,254 active COVID-19 cases in the country which comprises 2.47 percent of the total caseload, the data stated.

India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20 lakh mark on 7 August, 30 lakh on 23 August, 40 lakh on 5 September and 50 lakh on 16 September. It went past 60 lakh on 28 September, 70 lakh on 11 October, crossed 80 lakh on 29 October, 90 lakh on 20 November and surpassed the one-crore mark on 19 December.

According to the ICMR, 17,31,11,694 samples have been tested up to 31 December with 10,62,420 samples being tested on Thursday.

The 256 new fatalities include 58 from Maharashtra, 30 from Kerala, 29 from West Bengal and 21 from Chhattisgarh.

A total of 1,48,994 deaths have been reported so far in the country including 49,521 from Maharashtra followed by 12,122 from Tamil Nadu, 12,090 from Karnataka, 10,536 from Delhi, 9,712 from West Bengal, 8,364 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,108 from Andhra Pradesh and 5,341 from Punjab.

With inputs from PTI