Domestic vaccine major Serum Institute of India has sought indemnity from liability for its COVID vaccines, saying that the rules should be same for all the companies
As India continues to battle the second wave of COVID-19 , Karnataka on Thursday extended its lockdown till 14 June while neighbouring Kerala said it will impose additional restrictions in the state from 5 June till 9 June to reduce the COVID-19 positivity rate.
This, as India registered 1.34 lakh fresh cases and its daily positivity rate further dropped to 6.21 percent, the health ministry said.
The toll due to the viral disease has climbed to 3,37,989 with 2,887 more people succumbing to it, while the number of active COVID-19 cases was recorded below 20 lakh for the third consecutive day, according to the ministry’s data updated at 8 am.
“We had earlier announced stringent restrictions from 24 May to 7 June to contain the spread of coronavirus . Though the infections have reduced, the spread of the disease is still on,” Yediyurappa said.
The decision to extend the restrictions by a week was taken following the recommendation of experts, he said.
The lockdown-like restrictions have been in effect since 27 April. The government also announced a second COVID relief package of Rs 500 crore covering teachers, ‘ASHA’ and Anganwadi worker, fishermen, workers in film industry, temple priests, Muezzins in mosques and powerloom workers.
The relief package would benefit over 62.50 lakh people, Yediyurappa said.
‘Gautam Gambhir Foundation guilty of hoarding’
Meanwhile, the Delhi government’s drug controller told the Delhi High Court that the Gautam Gambhir Foundation has been found guilty of unauthorisedly stocking, procuring and distributing Fabiflu medicine to COVID-19 patients.
The BJP MP did a lot of charity work but caused a lot of shortage and inconvenience to society, the drug controller told the court.
The high court deprecated the manner in which a huge quantity of the drug was procured and said genuine patients who needed the medicine at that particular time could not get it as the bulk stock was taken away by cricketer-turned-politician Gambhir.
“This is certainly not the way. In this pandemic, it should not be done just because people have means to do it. It should not be that I will do it for one class or for my constituency people and it should not be for popularity. Firstly, you do charity for charity. Doing charity for some other reason is no charity. We want to curb this practice and for this, we want you (drug controller) to take action,” a bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh said.
AAP MLA Praveen Kumar has also been found guilty for similar offences under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and action will also be taken against him, the court was informed.
The drug controller also said taht action will be taken in other such cases which would be brought to its notice. The court asked the drug controller to file status reports on further progress in these cases within six weeks and listed the matter for hearing on 29 July.
‘In talks with major pharma companies to source, locally manufacture vaccine’
Also on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said discussions are underway with major pharma companies, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna, about sourcing and possibly manufacturing their COVID-19 jabs locally while India is looking forward to WHO’s nod for Bharat Biotech’s indigenously developed vaccine.
Addressing the World Health Organisation’s South-East Asia Regional Health Partners’ Forum on COVID-19 , Shringla also said the government has worked with key partners to ease regulatory disruptions to vaccine supply chains through diplomatic interventions.
India is fighting an “exceptionally severe” second wave of the contagion and it will participate in the process of creating global scale capacities that are needed to deal with pandemic-scale challenges, Shringla said.
This, on the same day that the Union health ministry finalised arrangements with Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Biological-E to reserve 30 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses for which it will be making an advance payment of Rs 1,500 crore.
These vaccine doses will be manufactured and stockpiled by Biological-E from August to December this year, a ministry statement said on Thursday.
The COVID-19 vaccine of Biological-E is currently undergoing phase-3 clinical trials after showing promising results in phase 1 and 2 trials. The vaccine being developed by Biological-E is a RBD protein sub-unit vaccine and is likely to be available in the next few months.
The proposal of Biological-E was examined and recommended for approval after due diligence by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), the statement said.
The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavour of the Centre to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research and development and also financial support, it said.
The Biological-E COVID vaccine candidate has been supported by the Centre from preclinical stage to phase-3 studies.
‘Time to speak in single voice’
Andhra Pradesh drew a blank to its global bid inviting international pharma firms to supply COVID-19 vaccine, prompting Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to write to all his counterparts stating that the situation has now transformed into a ”states Vs Union” and it was time for all of them to “speak in a single voice.”
“It is my request that as chief ministers we speak in a single voice and urge the Government of India to take charge and responsibility of the vaccination drive, the way it was happening in the early part of the year.”
“The decision of giving the states a larger say in the vaccination procurement was something that was unwarranted,” Jagan noted in the letter.
He said the need of the hour was to increase vaccine availability through any source. “A centralised and coordinated vaccination, supported by the state, would lead to wonderful results for the people of India.The (current) vaccination drive is plagued by multiple coordination issues. Some states feel they are not getting enough and global tenders floated are not getting the desired responses,” the Andhra Pradesh chief minister pointed out.
Jagan said the state went for a global tender to procure vaccines directly. “But to my dismay, no one quoted and the reasons being the situation now being transformed into states Vs Union and also the approving authority being the Government of India,” he added. Any delay in vaccinating people would come at a heavy price, he warned, as “our sharpest weapon against coronavirus is the vaccine”.
Jagan urged his fellow chief ministers to lend support and speak in one voice and ensure India overcame the pandemic. The stte government had floated a global tender on 13 May for procurement of COVID-19 vaccine (from foreign producers) sufficient to inoculate one crore persons. When the bid submission deadline ended on Thursday, not one was filed.
“The situation is similar in all the states. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha got no bids.Karnataka cancelled the global tender due to lack of bids.UP extended the time till 10 June,” Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal said. “When we conducted the pre-bid meeting on 20 May, representatives from three companies turned up, giving us some hope. But eventually not one filed the bid,” he noted.
The state has now decided to extend the time by two weeks to try its luck.
Maharashtra govt makes U-turn on easing restrictions
The Maharashtra government on Thursday evening clarified that the existing restrictions on account of COVID-19 have not been lifted anywhere, contrary to the announcement made by minister Vijay Wadettiwar, reported PTI.
Relaxation of restrictions as per the situation in different areas is only under consideration and no decision has been taken, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said.
Wadettiwar, minister for Disaster Management, later said only “in principle” approval to phasing out of restrictions was given, but no decision has been taken.
He had told reporters in the afternoon that restrictions would be lifted in 18 out of 36 districts in the state where the positivity rate is five percent or less and the occupancy of oxygen beds in hospitals is less than 25 percent from Friday.
He had held a press conference after a meeting of the State Disaster Management Authority. The CMO statement that followed said the government has not lifted lockdown-like curbs as COVID-19 has not been controlled completely yet.
“The coronavirus spread is serious in some rural areas….The curbs have not been completely lifted in the state,” the statement added.
After Pfizer, now SII seeks indemnity over vaccine
Domestic vaccine major Serum Institute of India is seeking indemnity from liability for its COVID vaccines, saying that the rules should be same for all the companies, according to sources. The development comes after requests for indemnity and exemption from bridging trials have been made by Pfizer and Moderna to the Indian government.
“Rules should be the same for everyone,” a source at the Serum Institute said. Earlier, Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla had said that vaccine manufacturers need to have protection against all lawsuits for their vaccines, especially during a pandemic.
In December 2020, speaking at an event, he said, “We need to have the government indemnify manufacturers, especially vaccine manufacturers, against all lawsuits. In fact, COVAX and other countries have already started talking about that.”
Serum Institute is producing Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine ”Covishield” in India and clinical trials of its second vaccine ”Covovax” manufactured under licence from American company Novavax have begun in the country and the company hopes to launch it by September.
Five senior pilots of Air India have died in May due to COVID-19
Five senior pilots of Air India have died in May due to COVID-19 , senior officials said on Thursday, adding that the carrier has started vaccinating its employees from 15 May onwards after a delay due to non-availability of vaccines.
These five senior pilots were Captain Harsh Tiwary, Captain G P S Gill, Captain Prasad Karmakar, Captain Sandeep Rana and Captain Amitesh Prasad, they said.
Meanwhile, private carriers such as Vistara and AirAsia India have given at least the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to around 99 percent and 96 percent of their eligible employees respectively as of now.
Air India had on 4 May said it would vaccinate all its employees against COVID-19 by the month-end as a pilots’ body had demanded inoculation of the flying crew on priority basis citing risk to their lives from the deadly infection.
Six days later, the carrier had to tell its employees that it would not be able to hold COVID-19 vaccination camps for them at the Delhi airport on 11 and 13 May due to “non-availability” of vaccines.
Maharashtra on Thursday reported 15,229 new COVID-19 cases and 307 fatalities, taking its caseload to 57,91,413 and death toll to 97,394, the health department said. The state now has 2,04,974 active cases, it said.
Mumbai city reported 985 new cases and 27 deaths, taking its case tally to 7,08,026 and the toll to 14,907. The wider Mumbai division, including the city and its satellite towns, reported 3,046 infections and 61 deaths, pushing the caseload to 15,40,443 and the toll to 28,046.
Meanwhile, Delhi recorded 487 fresh COVID-19 cases, the lowest daily count in over two-and-a-half months and 45 deaths on Friday, while the positivity rate slumped to 0.61 percent, according to data shared by the health department.
This is the first time the daily death count has gone below 50 since 11 April when the tally was 48. According to the latest health bulletin, these new fatalities pushed the death toll from COVID-19 to 24,447. On 16 March, Delhi had recorded 425 cases and on 17 March, the tally was 536, according to official data.
Karnataka continued to witness a slight increase in daily cases of COVID-19 as the state on Thursday reported 18,324 fresh infections, taking the tally to 26.53 lakh. With 514 deaths the toll in the state went upto 30,531.
Out of the 18,324 new cases reported on Thursday, 3,533 were from Bengaluru Urban, as the city saw 7,672 discharges and 347 deaths.
Meanwile, state health minister K Sudhakar claimed that Karntaka has tested over 3 crore samples so far, out of which 1,50,168 were tested on Thursday alone.
Total number of active cases in the state stood at 2,86,798.
Neighbouring Kerala registered 18,853 fresh coronavirus infections on Thursday taking the total number of those affected by the deadly virus to 25.54 lakh. The toll rose to 9,375 with 153 more deaths.
Uttar Pradesh reported 108 fresh Covid-related fatalities taking the death toll to 20,895 while the total number of cases touched 16,95,212 with 1,268 new cases, officials said on Thursday. Of the 108 deaths, 10 were reported from Kanpur Nagar, nine from Gorakhpur, eight from Amroha, seven from Allahabad, six each from Lucknow, Meerut and Jhansi among others, a health department release issued said.
Lucknow reported 75 new cases, followed by Saharanpur (66), Muzaffarnagar (65), and Meerut (55), among others, the release said.
In the last 24 hours, as many as 4,260 COVID-19 patients in the state have been discharged, taking the total number of recoveries to 16,48,771. The recovery rate now stands at 97.1 percent. The count of active cases in the state is 25,546 of which 14,581 are in home isolation, the release said.
In the last 24 hours, more than 3.40 lakh samples were tested, while over 5.04 crore samples have been tested in the state so far, the release said.
Across the country, 21,59,873 tests were conducted on Wednesday to detect COVID-19 , taking the total number of such tests conducted so far in the country to 35,37,82,648, while the daily positivity was recorded at 6.21 percent.
It has been less than 10 percent for 10 consecutive days now, the ministry said. The weekly positivity rate has declined to 7.66 percent.
With inputs from PTI
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