Covid vaccine: India drones deliver Covid jabs to remote areas

Dr Samiran Panda said drones are being used to deliver doses in mountainous states in the country’s north-east.

India aims to vaccinate all eligible citizens by the end of 2021 but experts say the drive needs to pick up a consistent pace to meet the target.

India has so far given more than 925 million doses of three approved jabs.

About 70% of the country’s eligible population have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to official data.

India has reported more than 33 million Covid cases, second only to the US, and more than 440,000 deaths – behind the US and Brazil.

On Monday, India tested its first drone delivery of vaccines in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

A drone carrying ten doses flew from Bishnupur to a primary health clinic in the Karang island in Loktak – a 240-sq-km lake riddled with islands – in 12 minutes. The journey to Karang, where 3,500 people live, usually takes some four hours by boat and road.

Dr Panda, chief scientist and head of epidemiology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said the trial run was successful and 10 people on the island took the jabs.

The states of Manipur and Nagaland are now likely to ferry doses to far-flung villages, a journey which often takes up to 12 hours by mountain roads and across streams, he added

Drones will also be used to ferry doses to the eastern archipelago of Andamans and Nicobar where “transportation by boat” was taking a long time.

“We are trying to make sure there are no outbreaks in these sparsely populated remote areas by vaccinating residents fast. If people get infected and contract severe disease they don’t have access to ventilators or intensive care or oxygen in these areas,” Dr Panda said.

The government is using drones which can carry a payload of 4.5kg or a maximum of 900 doses and fly at least 70km (43 miles) to ferry doses.

How is India’s rollout going?

Since 16 January, India has administered more than 925 million doses.

More than 670 million people have received the first dose and another 255 million or so have received both doses so far.

On 17 September, India administered more than 20 million doses in a day in a record-breaking effort to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday.

Experts say record-breaking days are encouraging but vaccination rates need to rise consistently. They estimate that India needs to give more than 10 million doses a day to fully vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of 2021.

Much will depend on levels of vaccine hesitancy and the availability of doses in the coming months.

India’s daily case count has been dropping – it has been reporting less than 40,000 new daily cases in the past month.

But doctors fear that a third wave is likelygiven that the country has fully reopened even as the threat of new variants looms large.

While the vaccination drive has gained momentum, experts worry about a gender gap – government data shows 6% fewer women are getting vaccinated. This is especially true in rural India where women have limited access to the internet and are hesitant or scared to take the vaccine.

Although a higher number of doses are being administered daily in rural areas, the share of population being vaccinated in urban areas is still greater. BBC

Covid-19: France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers

About 3,000 health workers in France have been suspended because they have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.

A new rule, which came into force on Wednesday, made vaccination mandatory for the country’s 2.7 million health, care home and fire service staff.

But French Health Minister Olivier Véran said on Thursday that “most of the suspensions are only temporary”.

Many are now agreeing to get jabbed because “they see that the vaccination mandate is a reality”, he said.

The rule applies to all doctors, nurses, office staff and volunteers.

President Emmanuel Macron first gave workers notice of the rule change on 12 July, warning them that they needed to get at least one jab by 15 September or resign from their jobs.

“I am aware of what I am asking of you, and I know that you are ready for this commitment, this is part, in a way, of your sense of duty,” he said at the time.

After the president’s announcement, Doctolib, the website people use to book their jabs, crashed as so many people tried secure appointments.

But with the mandate now in place, and thousands still refusing to get the vaccine, there are fears of a disruption to healthcare services.

In just one hospital in Nice in southern France, for example, almost 450 workers have been suspended – sparking protests outside the building.

And in another southern city, Montélimar, one hospital confirmed that it had already begun cancelling non-urgent operations because of a shortage of vaccinated anaesthetists, AFP news agency reports.

“We have to keep these people on the job until they have been replaced,” Christophe Prudhomme, an emergency doctor and left-wing MP, said.

But Mr Véran told French RTL radio on Thursday that “the continuity of care and the security of care and quality of care were assured yesterday in all hospitals and medico-social facilities”, although a few services, such as MRI scans, were impacted for a few hours.

He added that the suspensions mainly affected support staff, and “few white coats”. There have also been “a few dozen resignations” across the country, he said.

When the vaccines were first rolled out globally, France was one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world.

Then, about 40% of eligible people said they planned to get immunised, according to a survey by Ipsos. At the same time research from BBC Monitoring found that the number of followers of French-language pages sharing anti-vaccine content grew in 2020, from 3.2m to almost 4.1m likes.

But since the introduction of a Covid “health pass” in July, France has become one of the world’s most vaccinated countries.

Almost 90% of all adults have now had at least one jab. France has also started vaccinating children aged 12 and over, and is administering booster jabs to vulnerable people.

Vaccine mandates elsewhere in the world

France is not the only country to introduce a vaccine mandate.

Italy is also making an anti-Covid “green pass” mandatory for all employees from 15 October, meaning that workers who can’t show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test will be penalised.

“The government is ready to speed up on the ‘green pass’… (for) not just the public sector, but private too,” regional affairs minister Mariastella Gelmini said on Wednesday.

The green pass is already required for anyone in Italy who wants to eat indoors at restaurants, go to cinemas and sports stadiums, and take certain public transport or flights. It is also already mandatory for teachers.

In Greece, unvaccinated public and private sector employees have to have Covid tests once or twice a week, at their own expense. The rule came into force on 13 September.

And last week, the US made vaccines mandatory for federal government workers and contractors, and for all businesses with more than 100 employees. The rule affects covers about 100 million workers. BBC

Covid: Vaccine volunteers sought for children’s second dose study

A trial to test how well second doses of different coronavirus vaccines work in children is looking for volunteers.

Scientists want to see if giving two doses of different vaccines gives as good an immune response as two doses of the same vaccine.

The study, running at University Hospital Southampton, is looking for 360 volunteers aged 12-16 to take part.

From Monday, children aged 12 to 15 in the UK are to be offered one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The year-long trial is taking place in four locations in the UK – University Hospital Southampton, University of Oxford, St George’s University Hospital in London and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

It will see the volunteers given a full standard dose of Pfizer vaccine.

About eight weeks later they will then be given a second dose of one of the following:

  • A full standard dose of Pfizer vaccine
  • A half standard dose of Pfizer vaccine
  • A full dose of Novavax vaccine
  • A half dose of Moderna vaccine

However, they will not know which second dose vaccine they have received.

The vaccine has already been offered to those aged 16 and above. However 16-year-olds who have already received one dose are eligible for the trial.

Dr Katrina Cathie, from University Hospital Southampton, said initial results of the trial were expected at about Christmas and would “directly inform decisions about the roll-out of a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in this age group in the spring”.

Volunteers need to attend up to six study visits over the next year.

University Hospital Southampton said the visits would be “primarily after school and at weekends to avoid disruption to schooling”.

The study is being led by the University of Oxford and funded by the UK Vaccine Task Force and the National Institute of Health Research. BBC

Covid deaths rare among fully vaccinated – ONS

Out of more than 51,000 Covid deaths in England between January and July 2021, only 256 occurred after two doses.

They were mostly people at very high risk from illness from Covid-19.

The figures show the high degree of protection from the vaccines against illness and death, the ONS said.

Some deaths after vaccination were always expected because vaccines are not 100% effective, and it takes a couple of weeks after your second dose to build the fullest protection.

Of the 51,281 deaths involving Covid registered in England between 2 January and 2 July 2021:

  • both vaccine doses
  • This total includes people who had been infected before they were vaccinated
  • Some 458 deaths (0.8%) were people who died at least 21 days after their second dose
  • Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were people who were both fully vaccinated and who had their first positive PCR test at least 14 days after their second dose

“Breakthrough” deaths – occurring at least two weeks after the second jab along with a first positive PCR Covid test – tend to happen in the most vulnerable, men and those with weakened immune systems, with the average age being 84.

But overall numbers were very small – they accounted for only 0.5% of all deaths from Covid-19 over the first six months of the year.

Julie Stanborough, from the ONS, said: “Our new analysis shows that, sadly, there have been deaths of people involving Covid-19 despite them being fully vaccinated.

“However, we’ve also found that the risk of a death involving Covid-19 is much lower among people who are fully vaccinated than those who are unvaccinated.”

Among those who died after two doses, 13% were immunocompromised, 61% were male and more than 75% were clinically extremely vulnerable.

In the UK, 80% of people aged 16 and over have had two doses and nearly 90% have had one dose. BBC

Child winter respiratory illness on rise in summer

Parents are being warned to look out for the signs of a common childhood respiratory illness, RSV, cases of which unusually appear to be rising rapidly in the summer.

RSV is a very common winter virus – but social distancing and lockdowns kept it at bay earlier this year.

And this means young children have not been exposed and developed immunity.

Public Health England said it would just cause mild illness for most but some under-twos were at higher risk.

These can include infants born prematurely or with a heart condition.

And they can be at risk of more serious complications, including breathing difficulties caused by bronchiolitis.

PHE said parents should contact their GP or call NHS 111 if their child:

  • has taken less than half their usual amount during the past two or three feeds
  • has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more
  • has a persistent temperature of 37.8C or above
  • seems very tired or irritable

They should dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • the child is having difficult breathing
  • the child’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in the child’s breathing

PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: “This winter, we expect levels of common seasonal illnesses such as cold and flu to increase, as people mix more and given that fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the pandemic.BBC.

Scientists find new human coronavirus that originated in dogs

Coronavaris found in dogs.

Scientists have reportedly discovered a new kind of coronavirus that is believed to have originated in dogs – in what may be the eighth unique form of the bug known to cause disease in humans.

Researchers in a study published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal said their findings from patients hospitalized with pneumonia in 2017-2018 underscored the public health threat of animal coronaviruses, Reuters reported.

They said they had tested nasal swab samples taken from 301 pneumonia patients at a hospital in the east Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Eight of the samples — mostly from kids under the age of 5 — tested positive for a canine coronavirus, according the report.

Additional genomic sequencing found that the new strain — CCoV-HuPn-2018 — shared characteristics of other viruses known to have infected cats and pigs but was mostly similar to one that is known to have infected dogs.

It also carried a genetic mutation not found in any known canine coronaviruses but was present in human strains such as SARS-COV and SARS-COV-2, the deadly bug behind the COVID-19 pandemic.

The source of the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus itself remains unclear, Reuters reported.

The scientists said the findings indicated that the virus likely recently jumped from animals to humans, but stressed that additional studies are necessary to determine whether it can be transmitted between humans.

The authors also said it was unclear whether the virus could make people sick, adding that it was possible it was merely “carried” in the patient’s airways without causing illness.

Seven coronaviruses are known to cause illness in humans: four that cause the common cold, and three that cause the diseases commonly known as SARS, MERS and COVID-19.

FDA authorizes Roche drug for severely ill COVID-19 patients

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval to Roche’s Actemra (tocilizumab) to boost outcomes among hospitalized COVID-19 patients receiving oxygen and steroid medications.

Data from clinical trials among over 5,600 hospitalized patients indicated infusions, in addition to routine care, cut patients’ length of hospital stay and reduced the risk of death and ventilation after 28 days of follow-up.

“Today’s action demonstrates the FDA’s commitment to making new therapies available through every stage of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in a statement posted late Thursday. “Although vaccines have been successful in decreasing the number of patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization, providing additional therapies for those who do become hospitalized is an important step in combating this pandemic.”

The antibody drug doesn’t target the virus but works to alleviate inflammation by blocking the interleukin-6 receptor involved in the immune response. It was authorized to treat certain hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 2 and up. Actemra is already approved for other inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis. 

The FDA has cleared several antibody drugs for COVID-19 but there has been low demand because of the hurdles of delivering them via IV at hospitals or clinics. Health officials have emphasized the need to develop more pill-based drugs for COVID-19.

The agency cited data from four clinical trials; the open-label RECOVERY trial involving some 4,116 patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia suggested a reduction in risk of death after 28 days with odds of 30.7% in the treatment group compared to 34.9% for patients receiving usual care. The drug also cut the length of hospital stay by at least nine days (19 vs. over 28). Another trial, the double-blinded EMPACTA study, among 389 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia revealed 12% of the treatment group needed mechanical ventilation or died after 28 days, compared with 19.3% of patients taking placebo.

“Even with the availability of vaccines and declines in deaths from COVID-19 in various parts of the world, we continue to see new hospitalisations from severe forms of the disease,” Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., Roche’s chief medical officer and head of global product development, said in a statement. “We are pleased that Actemra/RoActemra is now authorised as an option that may help improve outcomes for adults and children hospitalised with COVID-19 in the United States.”

Does new Alzheimer’s drug work?

When a controversial Alzheimer’s drug won U.S. approval, surprise over the decision quickly turned to shock at how long it might take to find out if it really works — nine years.

Drugmaker Biogen has until 2030 to complete a study confirming whether its new drug Aduhelm truly slows the brain-destroying disease. That’s under the terms of the Food and Drug Administration’s conditional approval of the drug, a decision that has been praised by patients as overdue and condemned by the agency’s own outside experts.

But both camps agree: 2030 is far too long to wait for answers on the $56,000-a-year drug.

“We think nine years is unacceptable and our expectation is that it will happen in a much shorter time frame,” said Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group that pushed for approval but now wants the FDA to set a quicker deadline.

Other experts warn that the 2030 timeline could slip if patients balk at enrolling in a new study for a drug that’s already available. And the focus on Aduhelm — the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 18 years — could steer volunteers away from testing of other promising treatments.

“If someone can go to their physician and get the FDA-approved drug, why would they go into a trial where they risk getting a placebo?” said Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Kentucky.

To establish a new drug’s safety and effectiveness, researchers compare results in people who get the treatment to a similar group of people who don’t. That generally means half of the volunteers are randomly assigned to get a fake treatment instead of the real thing.

Biogen already conducted two such large studies of its drug, which requires monthly IVs. The studies took about four years to run and followed participants for about 1 1/2 years. Both were stopped early when it seemed the drug wasn’t working, and the results were so mired by flaws and inconsistencies that the FDA deemed them too weak to support approval on the basis of slowing the disease.

Instead, the agency took another approach and gave the drug conditional approval based on a promising sign: its success in getting rid of a buildup of sticky plaque in the brain that is thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Under its so-called accelerated approval program, the FDA is requiring Biogen to conduct a new study definitively answering whether Aduhelm’s effect on plaque truly slows mental decline in patients. Other Alzheimer’s drugs on the market only temporarily ease symptoms.

The FDA has not detailed how the 2030 target came about, or why such a distant deadline was granted for a drug that could be given to millions of patients in the coming years, adding billions to the nation’s health care bill.

“Alzheimer’s trials take time to complete,” the FDA said in a statement responding to questions about the study. The agency added that it might be possible to answer key questions about Aduhelm before the study’s completion and that Biogen is expected to submit results “as soon as feasible.”

But the agency’s critics point out that nine years is among the longest follow-up periods the agency grants drugmakers. Drugs approved under similar circumstances typically get six years. And, if anything, those studies tend to run behind schedule, not finish early. If follow-up studies don’t have positive results, the FDA can withdraw approval, though it rarely does so.

“Just because it says nine years doesn’t mean the evidence will be available in nine years,” said Joshua Wallach, a medical researcher at Yale’s School of Public Health. “There’s all of this back and forth discussion that can happen with FDA that can delay completion.”

Biogen isn’t scheduled to submit its initial proposal for the study to FDA until October. The Massachusetts-based company said in a statement that large Alzheimer’s trials often take six or seven years and that FDA-mandated studies can take even longer.

“We are working with urgency and putting resources and plans in place,” to complete the trial ahead of schedule, the company stated.

Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s specialists like Dr. Samuel Gandy are seeing patients in other drug studies ask about dropping out so they can get Aduhelm.

“They’ve all said, ‘You know, I can’t stand the idea of being on placebo,’” said Gandy, who has heard from more than 20 families interested in the drug at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital.

After he explained the drug’s unknown benefits and potential side effects — including brain swelling and bleeding — several decided against it. But other patients remain interested.

Post-approval studies have become an increasingly common FDA requirement since the 1990s, as regulators have accelerated their reviews of drugs for HIV, cancer and other deadly diseases. But the agency’s mixed record of tracking those requirements and penalizing companies that don’t meet them has been chronicled in government and academic studies.

The case of a widely debated drug for muscular dystrophy illustrates how the system can go awry.

In 2016, the FDA approved the first-of-a-kind drug from Sarepta Therapeutics based on preliminary results that it might help treat the degenerative disease by boosting a muscle-building protein.

As with Aduhelm, the approval was opposed by FDA’s outside advisers who said there was scant evidence the drug actually improved patient health or quality of life. But the FDA granted approval on the condition that Sarepta complete a confirmatory study by May 2021.

The trial, though, is still getting underway after “multiple challenges in the overall planning and startup,” according to the FDA’s website. The new target date is 2026, a decade after the drug was allowed on the market.

A Sarepta spokeswoman said the company spent years negotiating study details with the FDA, which required testing a higher dose.

In the meantime, Sarepta has won approval for two other dystrophy drugs based on similar results that also require follow-up trials, which the company says are already well underway.

“The FDA took a risk with Sarepta and I think they’re being burned by it now,” said Dr. Joseph Ross of Yale.

Ross and his colleagues have shown that at least a quarter of follow-up results never get published, leaving questions for physicians and patients.

The results from Biogen’s two Aduhelm studies have yet to appear in a medical journal. The company says it is “working diligently to publish our data.”

CDC says U.S. young adults less likely to take COVID-19 vaccine

June 21 (Reuters) – Younger adults are seeking out COVID-19 vaccines at a slower rate than older adults, and if that pace of vaccination continues through August, vaccine coverage among younger adults will not reach levels achieved with older adults, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Monday.

The agency said more work is needed to increase vaccination rates among younger adults to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Of the 57% American adults who received at least one vaccine dose by May 22, coverage was highest among people 65 or older and lowest among people aged 18 to 29, according to an analysis of vaccine rates published on Monday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The observations are based on vaccination data reported to the agency from Dec. 14, 2020 to May 22, 2021.

Younger Americans also are more likely to be reluctant to get vaccinated because of concerns over vaccine safety and effectiveness, the agency reported separately on Monday, citing data from household surveys conducted from March to May, 2021.

Benefits From consuming Garlic

Before we go deep into the benefits of garlic, let’s educate ourselves on the knowledge available about the nature of garlic.

Garlic is genus, Allium; a specie of onion. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion.

It is common with Central Asia and northeastern Iran, and has been a seasoning agent on our diets.

Now, let’s look at few benefits of garlic in our everyday food consumption.

Allicin compound exists in freshly cut or crushed garlic.

Other food compounds that play role in the health benefits of garlic includes diallyl disulfide and s-allyl cysteine.

Trully, if you want the full benefits of garlic. You should eat it raw.

Garlic boosts the immune system. Garlic boots the immune system of the body. Cold and common flu is one the fewer diseases that helps us to check our immune system. If we include garlic in our diets, common flu and cold will not be our problem.

Garlic reduces blood pressure. Garlic in certain amount of dose can drastically reduce high blood pressure .

Garlic reduces bad cholesterol levels. Garlic helps in reducing Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and balancing High-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Garlic improves the function of the brain. Garlic contains antioxidants which counters free radicals causing oxidation and serving as aging factor. And we all know some of the health problems associated with aging includes Dementia and Alzheimer’s.