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9 biopharma leaders sign safety pledge for Covid-19 vaccine

A new survey revealed that a majority of Americans are sceptical about getting a Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

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Vaccine

New York, Sep 8 : With the upcoming US presidential elections heating up the vaccine race, nine biopharma leaders on Tuesday signed a historic pledge to continue to make the safety and well-being of vaccinated individuals the top priority in the development of Covid-19 vaccines.

The CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline plc, Johnson & Johnson, Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi have signed the pledge.

The announcement comes at a time when US President Donald Trump is pushing for quicker approval for treatments and vaccines to fight the pandemic.

Trump on Monday even hinted that the US could approve a vaccine for Covid-19 in October itself, ahead of the presidential elections in November.

The pledge by the nine biopharma leaders on Tuesday suggests that they would not seek premature approval for their Covid-19 vaccine.

They said that they will only submit for approval or emergency use authorisation after demonstrating safety and efficacy through a Phase 3 clinical study that is designed and conducted to meet requirements of expert regulatory authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We, the undersigned biopharmaceutical companies, want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for Covid-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles,” read the pledge.

They said that they will also work to ensure sufficient supply and range of vaccine options, including those suitable for global access.

“We believe this pledge will help ensure public confidence in the rigorous scientific and regulatory process by which Covid-19 vaccines are evaluated and may ultimately be approved,” according to the pledge they took.

A new survey revealed that a majority of Americans are sceptical about getting a Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

According to the CBS News poll, about 58 per cent said that they would consider it but wait to see what happens to others before getting one, down from 51 per cent in late July.

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India at forefront of covid-19 vaccine development: PM Modi

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Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Oct 19 : India is now at the forefront of vaccine development for Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday while virtually addressing the ‘Grand Challenges’ annual meeting.

The assertion came just 48 hours after the Prime Minister chaired a meeting to review India’s vaccine delivery, distribution and administration process.

Earlier, the Centre had said that three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which 2 are in Phase II and one is in Phase III.

During his address on Monday, Modi said that India has one of the highest recovery rates at 88 per cent.

“This happened because India was one of the first countries to adopt a flexible lockdown,” he said.

Modi added that India is seeing a decline in the number of daily cases.

India’s Covid tally on Monday crossed the 75 lakh-mark to 75,50,273 cases. Out of these, 7,72,055 are currently active, 66,63,608 have been discharged, while 1,14,610 people have succumbed to the virus.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister heaped praises on India’s scientific fraternity and institutions.

“They have been India’s biggest assets, especially during the last few months. Be it containment or the issue of capacity building, they have achieved wonders,” the Prime Minister said.

He pointed out that the future will be shaped by societies which will choose to invest in science and innovation. However, he warned, “This cannot be attained in a short-sighted way. Investment in science and innovation needs to take place well in advance. Only then can we reap the benefits at the right time.”

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India is ‘very inspiring’; its research, manufacturing critical to fighting Covid-19: Bill Gates

He also said although the RT-PCR test has high specificity, a lot of challenge is about the logistics.

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Bill Gates Covid Vaccine

India’s research and manufacturing will be critical to fighting Covid-19 especially for making vaccines on a large scale, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said on Monday.

Addressing the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020, Gates delved upon the difficulties in vaccine development and diagnostics of Covid-19.

The American business magnate said India is “very inspiring” as it has made huge strides in improving the health of its people in the last two decades.

“And now, India’s research and manufacturing will be critical to fighting Covid-19 especially when it comes to making vaccines at large scale,” he said.
Gates said scientists all over the world are involved in a particular ‘grand challenge’ — ending the current pandemic.

He said researchers are breaking down silos and rather than waiting to go through the publication process, they are sharing data on a daily basis.

“Since the pandemic began, scientists have shared 1,37,000 viral COVID-19 genomic sequences,” the Microsoft Corp co-founder said. Even the pharmaceutical companies are cooperating on production ways that really have never been seen before, he added.

Talking about the challenges in vaccine development, he said mRNA vaccine is an area where many have seen “great promises”.

“Probably, the first approved vaccine for COVID-19 will be mRNA,” he said but added that the vaccine cannot be counted on alone because it is very hard to scale up and has a logistical problem because it requires a proper cold chain.

Gates expressed hope that the mRNA platform matures in the years ahead so that its vaccines can be scaled up that can bring down the costs as well the cold chain requirement.

He also stressed on the need for innovation in diagnostics platforms.

“Even when sometimes people are tested, results come back negative because some of the tests are not sensitive to the small nano virus,” he said, adding, this also leads to infection.

“So, the diagnostics are letting us down,” Gates said, stressing on the asymptomatic nature of the infection.

“Right now, the current business model is identifying people with symptoms and we need to change that. We need sensitive and specific diagnostic tests which matter and we need to make it easy to access,” he said.

He also said although the RT-PCR test has high specificity, a lot of challenge is about the logistics.

Gates suggested that there should be test kits that can be spread out into the community and can be stocked in medicine cabinets, community centres and pharmacies.

On cooperation by the scientific fraternity, he noted that international teams of scientists are collaborating with full speed on the vaccine clinical trials.

“One or more of these vaccines will be available by early next year and as there will be multiples vaccines, it is necessary to make sure to understand how exactly and where to use each of them,” he said.

Gates said the pace of science in fighting the pandemic has been remarkable.

“But despite all this work, right now, as fast as the science has moved…the pandemic is still ahead of us. The first COVID-19 vaccine will probably be the fastest that humans have ever gone from identifying the new disease to be able to immunise against it,” he said.

“Still we all know this virus has managed to plunge the entire global economy into a deep recession,” he added.

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60-70 polluting power plants to be closed soon: Javadekar

He also referred to the efforts to tackle the problem of pollution in the national capital through public transport services.

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Prakash Javadekar

New Delhi, Oct 18 : Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday announced that 60-70 pollution-causing power plants would be identified and closed in the next two years as he discussed steps taken by the Narendra Modi government to tackle the pollution menace.

Launching a social media connection with people, he made the announcement in a question and answer session on Facebook Live.

The minister said that power plants of Badarpur and Sonipat in Delhi-NCR have already been shut down.

Javadekar said mainly 5-6 aspects contribute to the pollution — traffic, industry, garbage, dust, stubble burning and geographical factors.

Listing the steps taken by the Modi government, he said that the use of BS-VI fuel reduces pollution by 25-60 per cent, and a key step has been taken to promote BS-VI fuel at a cost of Rs 62,000 crore.

He also referred to the efforts to tackle the problem of pollution in the national capital through public transport services.

“In 2014, while 25-30 lakh people used to travel by Metro in Delhi and NCR, today 45-50 lakh people commute by Metro. This is a big achievement. The construction of Eastern-Western Peripheral Expressway has also taken care of around 60,000 pollution causing vehicles that used to pass through Delhi. Now, the metro and e-buses facilities are being increased in all cities.”

The Union Minister said during the Facebook Live interaction that in 2015, the Modi government launched the National Air Quality Index for the first time. From 2016, the monitoring of air quality began.

“In the year 2016, while there were 250 days of bad air, the count today has come down to 180.”

Javadekar said the cause of pollution in Delhi-NCR is also due to geographical factors.

“Due slow air-flow, the problem of pollution is more in Delhi. The pollution reduces whenever the wind blows,” he said.

He also said the Modi government also framed new rules for construction and demolition management in 2016 in Delhi to manage pollution.

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