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New Delhi: Scientists and drugmakers all over the world are racing against time to find a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

While there isn’t yet an approved COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use, a handful of candidates are already in the final stage of testing with some of them declaring positive interim results from phase 3 trials.

On November 11, US drug giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced that their mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.

Earlier this week, another US biotech firm Moderna said that its experimental vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus demonstrated 94.5 per cent efficacy. While scientists and health researchers have welcomed the first compelling results suggesting that we might soon have a vaccine against COVID-19, a few key questions remain open – such as safe storage and handling of the vaccines, duration of protection of the vaccines, essential characteristics of a good vaccine, etc.

According to Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India, a good vaccine has four features. Taking to Twitter, the head of the Pune-based firm revealed that a good vaccine has to be safe, it should offer long-term protection against targeted disease, it should be transported and stored at a manageable temperature, and affordable to all of humanity.

Basically, vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s immune system to fight off the viruses and bacteria they target.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, which are waiting for the approval of the regulatory body, are based on mRNA technology. The new platform, mRNA, is faster to produce than traditional vaccines and effectively turn human cells into vaccine factories. But experts have raised concerns about the distribution challenges linked with Pfizer’s vaccine due to its specialised storage requirements. Pfizer’s vaccine would need needs minus 70 degrees Celsius temperature, which could complicate chain logistics, particularly in developing countries.

Moderna said their vaccine can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days, easing distribution woes for governments and agencies across the world – if and when the jab becomes available.

However, how long-lasting the protection will be from either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines is not clear yet. Moreover, it is not yet clear how well they work for the elderly, the age-group at the highest risk from COVID-19 infection.

Meanwhile, Serum Institute had teamed up with AstraZeneca for the production of coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University. The vaccine candidate, dubbed ‘Covishield’ in India, is currently in the phase 2/3 clinical trials in the country. Recently, Poonawalla had hinted that India may get 100 million doses of the vaccine, which will be priced at Rs 224 per dose, by December.


The goodness of Argan oil




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Argan oil has traditionally been used topically to improve the health of skin, hair, and nails. It contains a number of different beneficial properties and vitamins that form a powerful combination to boost skin health.

Dr Geeta Grewal – cosmetic surgeon, beauty and health wellness expert explains some prominent uses of the oil for health, skin and hair.

Night Moisturiser

Argan oil absorbs quickly and does not leave an oily residue. In the winter months you may need a second drop but remember to use sparingly. This oil is safe and gentle to use around your eyes. Vitamin A and Vitamin E present in the oil can help to reduce fine wrinkles and keep this delicate area moisturized.

Skin Toner

Toning is an important step in your skin care routine. For an all-over glow, add 3-4 drops of your favourite toner, make your own chemical-free, natural toner at home.


To experience the argon oil benefits while exfoliating, pay special attention to acne-prone areas and areas that are dry.

Regular exfoliation helps to remove dead skin cells and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while giving you a younger, fresher complexion. With the aid of the brown sugar, argon oil’s nutrients are more readily absorbed into your skin. Use this exfoliator for more than just your face. If you have dry elbows or heels, mix up a bit more to massage the dry and dead skin away.

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Natural antioxidants can keep heart, cancer diseases at bay




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If you want to keep your immune system strong for fighting cardiovascular diseases or cancer, start taking natural antioxidants as health experts on Sunday stressed that it helps in improving overall health by providing many other health benefits.

According to experts, antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation.

The latest antioxidant which is produced for the first time in India is gamma oryzanol, which is very quickly gaining popularity as a super antioxidant.

It is a substance that is taken out of rice bran oil. It is also found in wheat bran and some fruits and vegetables.

The experts said that gamma oryzanol is used for high cholesterol, symptoms of menopause and many other conditions.

“Gamma oryzanol is useful for controlling elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, supporting cardiovascular health along with controlling menopausal symptoms. Gamma oryzanol helps lower cholesterol because it helps decrease cholesterol absorption and increase cholesterol elimination. Along with this, it is also known to boost metabolic rate and may help with weight loss,” Swapna Chaturvedi, senior dietician, Department of Dietetics, AIIMS told IANS.

As gamma oryzanol is found to be effective in controlling high cholesterol level in the body, it is registered in Japan and the US as a natural medicine to treat hyperlipidemia/dyslipidaemia (elevated cholesterol levels/unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Most research shows that taking natural antioxidants decreases total cholesterol, “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and blood fats called triglycerides in people with high cholesterol.

“It also helps in preventing heart attack by preventing platelet aggregation, a system where platelets blood gets stuck together and form clots that block arteries,” said Praveen Chandra, Head of Department, Interventional Cardiology, Medanta, The Medicity in Gurugram.

The experts mentioned that gamma oryzanol is also used for increasing testosterone and human growth hormone levels, as well as improving strength during resistance exercise training.

Gamma oryzanol also helps to inhibit different cancers in the body and builds immunity to fight cancer cells.

“Many of the antioxidants have proven beneficial in inhibiting the cancers at various stages. Gamma oryzanol has been found out to be effective antioxidant which comes from rice bran and helps in preventing cancer if taken for a long period,” said Rahul Bhargava, Director, Institute of Blood Disorder and BMT, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi.

Gamma oryzanol is basically activator of NK cells which gives the cancer cells a check.

It not only works through NK cells but also inhibits angiogenesis. It means it cuts the supply for the cancer cells to grow and increases your body’s own immunity to gather the strength to kill cancers.

“Gamma oryzanol also prevents cancers and studies show it helps in regressing the prostate cancer cells,” Bhargava noted.

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No benefit from arthritis drug for severe Covid patients: Study




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Contrary to a few studies that earlier suggested benefits from an arthritis drug for patients with severe or critical Covid-19 infection, a new study indicates that it is not better than standard care alone.

According to the researchers, including Regis G Rosa from Hospital Moinhos de Vento in Brazil, there was an increased number of deaths at 15 days in patients receiving an arthritis drug — tocilizumab — that resulted in the trial being stopped early.

These results contradict earlier observational studies suggesting benefit from tocilizumab. However, observational effects are limited by a high risk that they may be due to other unknown (confounding) factors — and some studies have not yet been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal, the researchers said in a paper published in The BMJ journal.

Tocilizumab blocks a specific part of the immune system (interleukin 6) that can go into overdrive in some patients with Covid-19.

According to the team, doctors think this might help lessen the body’s inflammatory response to the virus and avert some of the more dire consequences of the disease, but its effects are not well defined.

To test this theory, researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial involving 129 Covid-19 patients with an average age of 57 years and compared tocilizumab plus standard care with standard care alone.

Patients were receiving supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation and had abnormal levels of at least two chemicals linked to inflammation in their blood.

The study participants were randomly divided into two groups — 65 received tocilizumab plus standard care and 64 received standard care alone. All patients were monitored for 15 days.

By day 15, 18 (28 per cent) patients in the tocilizumab group and 13 (20 per cent) in the standard care group were receiving mechanical ventilation or had died.

Death at 15 days occurred in 11 (17 per cent) patients in the tocilizumab group compared with 2 (3 per cent) in the standard care group.

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