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India coronavirus dispatch: A heat-tolerant vaccine in the works at IISc

Improving case-fatality rate, the reopening of universities, and vaccination intent slips-news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Coronavirus Vaccine

Bharath Manjesh  |  New Delhi 

Health workers collect swab sample from suspected people for COVID-19 testing at a civic centre in New Delhi (File photo)

A "warm" vaccine in the works: Most vaccines need to be transported and distributed between 2 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees celsius in the so-called cold chain. A heat-tolerant Covid-19 vaccine can be transported to remote villages for millions of doses without reliance on the cold chain. Such vaccines are rare, but a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is working on one for Covid-19. A group of researchers headed by Raghavan Varadarajan, a professor at IISc and a biophysicist, have tested this vaccine on animals. The "warm" or heat-stable vaccine can be stored at 100 degrees celsius for 90 minutes, according to Varadarajan. Most of the Covid-19 vaccines under development will need to be refrigerated at temperatures well below freezing point, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). A "warm" Covid-19 vaccine has the potential to be a game-changer as it can be deployed quickly in remote areas and relieve pressures on healthcare workers.
Only three heat-stable vaccines are licensed and approved by WHO for use at temperatures up to 40 degrees celsius—one each against meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and cholera. Read more here
India's CFR improves: India's case-fatality rate—a measure of the Covid-19 infections that lead to death—is down 50 per cent since May. It dipped to 1.49 per cent on 1 November from 3.28 per cent on 1 May. The improvement in CFR is owing to wider testing and a deeper understanding of the nature of the disease, according to experts. For instance, doctors now prioritise oxygen administration over invasive ventilators when a Covid-19 patient's oxygen saturation slips below 94 per cent. Hospitals have also figured out ways to manage the crisis with a smaller staff. Another crucial development that has occurred since the start of the pandemic is that India has tested far more and has relaxed the testing regime to allow on-demand tests. The panic surrounding the outbreak in the early days has given way to better awareness among the medical fraternity and even the public. For instance, people understand the usefulness of keeping a pulse oximeter handy at home. Read more here
Vaccination intent slips: On average, an intent to get vaccination is down by 4 points across 15 countries since August, according to the latest World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey on vaccine confidence. 73% of adults who were surveyed strongly or somewhat agree with the statement “if a vaccine for COVID-19 were available, I would get it”. Three months ago, that figure stood at 77%. Vaccination intent has slipped in 10 of the 15 countries, particularly in China, Australia, Spain, and Brazil. About two in three in the US, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Japan, and Germany, and about one in two in France, plan on getting the vaccine if it becomes available. More than four in five in India, mainland China, South Korea, and Brazil, also intend to do so. Globally, 34% cited concerns about side effects. Fast-moving clinical trials are cited by 33%. One in ten say they are anti-vaccine in general. Around one in four adults across the 15 countries think the chance of contracting the virus is so low a vaccine will not be necessary. Read more here
UGC’s fresh guidelines for reopening universities explained:
On Thursday, the University Grants Commission issued guidelines for reopening universities which have stayed shut since mid-March.
When are universities and colleges reopening? Who goes back first to the university? What is the Centre’s stance on attendance? Find answers to these questions and more here
India's Covid-19 R-value stays put: After weeks of steady decline, India’s Covid-19 R-value —which measures the rate of the spread of infection—stayed put at 0.88 this week, as several states with large caseloads saw an upward trend in their infection rates. R-value denotes the number of people an individual patient can infect. A figure under one indicates that the number of active cases is decreasing.
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana are among the states that saw their R-value rise. Delhi's already high R-value rose marginally from 1.13 to 1.14.
Kerala, Karnataka, and West Bengal are among the states that saw a decline in their R-values. Read more here

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First Published: Fri, November 06 2020. 15:15 IST