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India Coronavirus Dispatch: Will the Pfizer vaccine come to India?

Sivakasi reels from bans on fireworks, scientists slam use of unproven Covid drugs, and Delhi's Covid crisis worsens ahead of Diwali-news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Coronavirus Vaccine

Bharath Manjesh  |  New Delhi 

A health worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a man at the Sadar Bazar market to conduct tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Delhi (File photo)

Will the Pfizer vaccine come to India?

US-based drugmaker Pfizer has announced that its vaccine, BNT162b2, has been more than 90 per cent effective against Covid-19 in late-stage trials. But, will India get access to this vaccine? Pfizer developed the vaccine together with German biotech firm BioNTech. So far the firms have struck deals for hundreds of millions of jabs of the vaccine with western countries such as the US, UK, the European Union, and also Japan. The companies expect to make up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 globally and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021, based on current estimates.
India had an "initial meeting" with representatives of Pfizer's India subsidiary in late August after early phase 1 data of the vaccine was out, but there has been no development after that. The entry of the vaccine into India hinges on whether either of the two companies approaches India's drug regulator for approval to carry out human trials here, either on their own or through an Indian drugmaker. India mandates that a vaccine cannot be launched in the country without local trials. India is focused on five other vaccine candidates being tested by Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, and Biological E. Read more here
Study finds most Asians reluctant to travel for work even after Covid:
With the realisation that business can run virtually, most people don't plan on restarting regular travel even after Covid-19 dies down, a study by London-based firm Inmarsat has found. The survey of about 10,000 frequent fliers found just over a quarter of people in the Asia-Pacific region say they feel confident enough to fly again within six months. Overall, 83% of travellers will reconsider their old traveling habits and 31% will travel less by air. Read more here
Another blow to Sivakasi fireworks industry:
India's fireworks capital Sivakasi, which was already taking a hit from air pollution-driven bans, has been dealt another blow by Covid-19. The lockdown meant no big weddings and public celebrations. Even as the lockdown lifted, the persistent threat of the virus meant popular festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi passed by without the usual fanfare. The industry was pinning its hopes on the festive season, but a series of states and union territories such as Rajasthan, Delhi, Karnataka, Odisha and Sikkim have already banned fireworks to avoid a worsening of the Covid-19 crisis. The industry may be staring at losses of over Rs 800 crore this year alone, which threatens the livelihood of about 8 lakh workers. Read more here
Scientists criticise authorisation of unproven Covid drugs in India:
India's drug regulator Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI) has granted given its nod for ‘restricted emergency use’ of at least three drugs-influenza drug favipiravir, anti-viral drug remdesivir, and itolizumab. This is the first time the DGCI has used such powers. But scientists argue it’s unclear on what basis the drugs were approved, and critics say that the manufacturers’ data on their efficacy is unconvincing so far.
Scientists are also concerned that emergency authorisations are influencing other countries’ decisions. For instance, itolizumab has been granted emergency authorisation in Cuba, in part based on Indian data. Read more here
Delhi's Covid crisis worsens ahead of Diwali:
In a worrying development, the number of deaths in the national capital has increased from 10 per 1,000 cases on 8 October to 14 per 1,000 as of Tuesday. Delhi saw 401 deaths for the week ending 8 November, a 40 per cent jump. This is the highest Covid death toll since July. Read more here

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First Published: Tue, November 10 2020. 15:03 IST