\'Precaution dose\' vaccine: NTAGI to decide next week

Around 80 million eligible children can register on the CoWIN app for their first vaccine dose from Saturday

By :  sanjay kaw
Update: 2022-01-01 03:02 GMT
A health worker collects swab samples of passengers to conduct COVID-19 test, amid concern over rise in Omicron virus variant cases, at the Anand Vihar railway station near New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary)

New Delhi: Amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) and its working group will meet next week to finalise which vaccine will be given as a “precautionary” dose to healthcare and frontline workers and senior citizens above 60 with co-morbidities from January 10.
While the government has cleared only Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin as the first vaccine dose for children in the 15-18 age group, it is yet to decide which vaccine should be used as the precaution dose for others. Around 80 million eligible children can register on the CoWIN app for their first vaccine dose from Saturday.

As children can get vaccinated from January 3, the Assam government is targeting administering the first Covaxin dose to all eligible teenagers within seven days of the start of the vaccination drive. State health minister Keshab Mahanta said the administration was aiming to fully vaccinate the students by mid-February before their board examination.

The Union health ministry will hold a series of meetings next week to finalise the vaccine for the precaution dose. Several studies and clinical trials are already underway to assess the mixing of vaccines for better immunity from Omicron, now spreading rapidly across the globe.

NTAGI is also awaiting data on trials being done on vaccine mixing in the country. One such study is being done by the Transnational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the department of biotechnology. Another study on heterologous vaccines is being undertaken at CMC Vellore. Bharat Biotech has also submitted Phase 3 clinical trial application to DGCI its intra-nasal Covid-19 vaccine. The trial will be conducted to see if the intra-nasal vaccine can be given as a third dose to Covaxin and Covishield vaccinated people.

The latest reports suggest that Omicron has started replacing Delta in terms of the number of Covid-19 cases. About 80 per cent of travellers from overseas who tested positive have the Omicron variant. A third of all positive cases had mild symptoms, and the rest were asymptomatic.

The health ministry data released at 8 am on Friday showed that the country had seen the highest single-day rise of 309 Omicron cases, taking the tally of such cases to 1,270 in 23 states and Union territories. The data showed as many as 16,764 fresh Covid-19 cases and 220 deaths due to the viral disease were also reported in the last 24 hours.
Maharashtra marked the last day of the year with yet another massive spike in single-day Covid-19 cases with 8,067 people testing positive. Of the fresh cases, Mumbai had 5,428 infections — a surge of 1,757 from Thursday’s 3,671. The state’s cumulative tally has risen to 66,78,821. The state also confirmed four fresh Omicron cases, taking the overall tally to 454. Of these, a total of 157 patients have already recovered following a negative RT-PCR test report.

Alarmed over the fast spread of Covid-19 infections, the Mumbai police has issued an order under Section 144 CrPC prohibiting people from visiting beaches, open grounds, sea faces, promenades, gardens, parks or similar public places between 5 pm and 5 am daily till January 15. The order issued by DCP (operations) S. Chaitanya said: “The city continues to be threatened with the Covid-19 pandemic in light of the increase in cases and emergence of the new Omicron variant.”

In Delhi, where tight measures are already in place to check the spread of the virus, tours of Rashtrapati Bhavan and Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum have been stopped from Saturday. The change of guard ceremony will also not take place there until further notice.

At a time when the world is battling Delta and Omicron variants, Arab News tweeted that Israel has recorded the first case of “Florona” disease, a double infection of Covid-19 infection and influenza. Israel on Friday had started giving fourth Covid-19 vaccine shots to those with weakened immunity, becoming one of the first countries to do so in the hope of countering a surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant.

The Serum Institute of India, meanwhile, has applied to the authorities for full market authorisation of Covishield, stating that supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine have exceeded 125 crore doses. SII had partnered with the developer of Covishield, AstraZeneca, for the supply of the vaccine to the Indian government.

In the United States, Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine has got full USFDA approval for use in individuals 16 years of age and older, transitioning from an earlier emergency use authorisation (EUA). EUA is granted by authorities in public health emergencies to provide access to medical products after determining that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product. In case of full market authorisation, the vaccines need to undergo the standard regulatory process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.

India’s drug regulator also approved SII’s proposal to manufacture a drug substance for the new vaccine against Omicron and carry out tests and analysis. This move assumes significance in view of the country reporting a rise in daily new Covid-19 cases, which also include its Omicron variant. Another good news is that Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd has said it will launch its generic version of the anti-Covid-19 pill Molnupiravir within a week in India. The company plans to launch Molnupiravir under the brand name “Lizuvira” in the Indian market.

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