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White House is fast tracking COVID-19 vaccine development: Here’s how

“Even before you know something works, at risk, you have to start producing it, because once you know it works, you can say, great, it works so now give me another six months to produce it.”

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PRESS CONFERENCE-COVID-19
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

New York, March 27 : Dr. Anthony Fauci, Americas top infectious diseases doctor on the White House coronavirus task force, signalled a dramatic shift in the way Covid-19 vaccine development is going to get fast tracked so that precious time is not lost between green-lighting the drug itself and time to market.

Despite the speedier process, the likely timeline of vaccine delivery is still being pegged at 12-18 months.

“I’m not changing any of the dates that I mentioned,” Fauci said.

Explaining the thinking behind the policy shift, Fauci said, “Even before you know something works, at risk, you have to start producing it, because once you know it works, you can say, great, it works so now give me another six months to produce it.”

Fauci told reporters that there are a “couple of handfuls” of vaccines at different stages of development at this time.

Phase One trials, currently on, will drag all the way into the summer of 2020, Fauci said. Next come the Phase Two and Phase Three trials which will likely lead to what Fauci calls the “efficacy” signal.

“If in fact it does work, we hope to rush it to be able to have some impact on (the virus) recycling in the next season,” Fauci said, referring to the possibility that Covid-19 becomes a seasonal infection.

Fauci said the White House task force is working with the private sector to hard code this change in policy which can shrink the time between vaccine approval and delivery to America’s healthcare system.

“The best way to get the best drug as quickly as possible is to do a randomized control trial, so that you know is it safe and effective. If it’s not effective, get it off the board and go to the next thing. If it is effective, get it out to the people that need it”, Fauci said.

Fauci indicated that he will be circling back throughout April on all the drugs that are going into randomized controlled trials.

Fauci struck a cautiously upbeat tone saying he feels “confident” that the US will find a solution based on all the knowledge now available on the virus

“We will have some sort of therapy that gives at least a partial if not a very good protection in preventing progression of disease,” Fauci said.

(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)

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Two Radio Pakistan staffers die of COVID-19

Two employees of Radio Pakistan have died from the coronavirus – Muhammad Ashfaq, a senior broadcast engineer and Huma Zafar, an Urdu newscaster, died after contracting the disease

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Radio Pakistan Huma Zafar

Islamabad, May 29 : Two Radio Pakistan staffers died from the novel coronavirus, it was reported.

According to an official statement issued by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) on Thursday, the victims were Senior Broadcast Engineer Mohammad Ashfaq and Huma Zafar, was an Urdu newscaster, reports Dawn news.

They were both associated with Radio Pakistan for 20 years

Radio Pakistan Deputy Controller News Sajjad Parvez told Dawn news that Ashfaq, who was already suffering from a chronic lung condition, tested positive for COVID-19 10 days ago and had isolated himself.

“His kidneys were also weak, because of which he underwent dialysis, but he could not survive,” he said.

Of the second victim, Parvez said: “Huma’s sister was infected with COVID-19 in Lahore, due to which she went to Lahore with her mother. Later, she and her mother also contracted the virus, due to which her mother died Wednesday night and she died on Thursday.”

PBC media coordinator Chaudhry Zameer Ashraf said the PBC has decided to ensure the safety of employees and all possible measures are being taken to protect them from the coronavirus.

A PBC employee said that officially, nine engineers were tested for COVID-19 of which four were positive and the reports of another two employees are still pending.

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India records highest single-day spike, surpasses China toll

India is currently in the fourth phase of lockdown which is till May 31. Cases spiked at record rate during the lockdown 4.0 that allowed much relaxation.

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Keralites Middle East Corona

New Delhi, May 29 : India on Friday not only recorded its largest jump in new cases as it added 7,466 new Covid patients in 24 hours, emerging as the ninth worst-hit country in the world by pandemic, but it also surpassed China’s toll of 4,638 so far as it recorded 4,706 deaths.

While China was the first country to report disease last December and recorded over 84,000 total cases so far, India that reported its first case in January end, now has 1,65,799 cases that is more than Turkey’s (1,60,979).

The only good news for India is that it has shown a 42.88 per cent recovery with 71,105 of the patients who contacted the disease being cured and sent back home. In the past one day, 175 deaths were also reported.

Delhi and Tamil Nadu showed jump of around 1,000 cases as Maharashtra continued to contribute a lion’s share, it was still the worst hit state that reported 59,546 cases so far. Tamil Nadu now has 19,372 and Delhi 16,281 cases.

Gujarat reported 15,562 cases, Rajasthan 8,067, Madhya Pradesh 7,453 and Uttar Pradesh 7,170.

Kerala which had almost flatten the curve, is witnessing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, there are now 1,088.

Number of cases have spiked in the North East, with Assam having 856 cases.

Other States and UTs have also reported steady increase and West Bengal now has 4,536 cases, Telangana (2,256), Punjab (2,158), Jammu and Kashmir (2,036), Bihar (3,296) and Andhra Pradesh(3,251).

India is currently in the fourth phase of lockdown which is till May 31. Cases spiked at record rate during the lockdown 4.0 that allowed much relaxation.

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Harsh Vardhan snubs AIIMS director Guleria’s prediction on Covid peak

Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) Director Dr Guleria on May 7 had said, “National and international both experts are analysing the data. Most of them have guessed that India will most likely see the peak in June or July.”

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Harsh Vardhan and Dr Randeep Guleria

New Delhi, May 28 : In what appears to be a snub to the prediction made by AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria regarding COVID pandemic peak in the country, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said its “difficult” to make an assumption about “future scenarios of the disease”.

The Health Minister, in an exclusive interview with IANS, said that given the heterogeneous mathematical modeling based on varied assumptions and less information available about the virus, it was extremely difficult to make accurate predictions about future scenarios of the disease.

To a query by the IANS on when to expect the curve to flatten since AIIMS Director Guleria has said that the situation may worsen in the next two months, Harsh Vardhan clarified, “Right now, we have a steady curve. It has never shown any exponential rise.”

This seemingly public disagreement with Guleria is manifestation of the government’s apparent unhappiness with the AIIMS chief’s comment that sparked off fear psychosis amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in India.

The Minister added, “We are now trying to bend the curve downwards. The trajectory of the outbreak is decided by a number of factors such as pathogenicity and transmissibility of virus; availability of specific treatment or vaccine; as well as collective performance of all public health interventions undertaken to contain the outbreak such as testing and early case detection, isolation, quarantine, contact-tracing, optimum care of cases and surveillance.”

The Minister also said that COVID-19 is a new disease and the behaviour of this virus in the evolving outbreak is “unknown”. “We have isolated the virus and our scientists and epidemiologists are studying it with the help of gene sequencing. Not much data about the virus and the disease is available at the moment,” he said.

“Further as far as the issue of predictions of the further spread of the disease is concerned, let me tell you that I keep on hearing about one mathematical prediction model or the other. There are so many such models giving so many predictions round-the-clock that it is difficult to track them or justify them. But just like any mathematical model, these models are based on a number of assumptions and presumptions which may or may not match with real ground data because the data is still being generated each day and the disease has not matured across the world. Therefore, it beats me as to with so much uncertainties, whether it is possible to make accurate predictions about future scenarios of the disease,” said the minister.

Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) Director Dr Guleria on May 7 had said, “National and international both experts are analysing the data. Most of them have guessed that India will most likely see the peak in June or July.”

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