‘Covaxin’ and ‘Covishield’ vaccination drive on Jan 16: No answer from govt on who would get what

News Network
January 15, 2021

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India is all set to kickstart the world's biggest Covid-19 vaccination drive with two shots – Covaxin and Covishield tomorrow (on January 16). But there are no clear answers from the government on as both vaccines would be treated equally at the ground level though Covaxin lacks efficacy data.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday morning will launch the campaign at 3,006 session sites across all the states and Union Territories and around 100 beneficiaries would be vaccinated at each site. Healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors including ICDS workers, will receive the vaccine in this phase.

Multiple public health researchers told DH that there were "no specific instructions given to the states on which vaccine is to be used for which category of workers".

The Union Health Ministry has procured 11 million doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute, Pune and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad. The full initial procurement of 16.5 million doses has been allocated to the states according to the healthcare worker database.

"There are no specific instructions on which vaccine is to be used for which category of workers. The stock will be used as per the recipients' lists. Some will indeed get Covaxin as, according to the programme, all vaccines are being treated equally," said a senior public health specialist in Delhi.

The two-vaccine rollout comes amid concerns among a section of scientists, medical researchers and policy planners on the governmental push being given to the Bharat Biotech vaccine without the efficacy data even though the epidemic has been on a decline since September.

"The government has still not clarified the basis of the original unusual approval for Covaxin use and the actual terms and conditions under which its 'emergency use' is to be done," said senior scientist Satyajit Rath, a visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Pune.

"Not waiting for preliminary Covaxin efficacy evidence to actually start quite small numbers of injections of Covaxin is simply one more step in a process which seems more focused on nationalist brownie points than on substantive public good."

Earlier this week, health officials stated there would be no choice for the vaccine recipients. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asserted that no other country offered such a choice.

"Providing a vaccine without adequate efficacy data can lead to a false sense of security among vaccine recipients. A greater degree of transparency prior to the start of the vaccination programme is essential. This is especially true for Covaxin for which phase-3 safety and efficacy data are not yet available," said a group of scientists from the Indian Academy of Sciences in a statement.

But another group of researchers – backed by BJP – came out openly in support of the two vaccines asking the people to "reject the manipulations of vested interests aimed at politicisation and defamation of our nation's scientists, doctors and scientific community for their narrow vested interests".

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Agencies
February 23,2021

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New Delhi, Feb 23: A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested in connection with the toolkit case.

The Delhi Police had accused Ravi of creating the online toolkit - a Google document - in support of ongoing farmers' protest in the country and claimed she is part of global conspiracy to create unrest and trigger violence in the guise of farmers' stir against the three agriculture laws.

On Monday, she was sent to one-day police custody after a three-day judicial remand and spending five days in police custody. Ravi was arrested on February 13.

The police sought her custody again yesterday saying they want to confront Ravi with other accused in the case - activists Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk. She was brought to the Delhi Police Cyber Cell for the same earlier on Tuesday.

Both Muluk and Jacob were booked for alleged sedition along with Ravi, but got transit bail from Bombay High Court. They were both on Monday questioned at the Delhi Police's Cyber cell office in Dwarka, a senior police officer said. The probe agency said that they may arrest Jacob and Muluk as well in the future if there is a requirement.

Ravi was volunteering for Fridays for Future (FFF) India, an organisation founded by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, and used to help with the organisation's event management work in Bengaluru. The contentious toolkit was first shared by Thunberg on Twitter but later deleted. However, the teen activist extended support to Ravi and tweeted, "Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest and assembly are non-negotiable human rights. These must be a fundamental part of any democracy." The tweet was posted with the hashtag 'StandWithDishaRavi'.

Meanwhile, Muluk on Tuesday moved a Delhi court seeking anticipatory bail. His application is likely to come up for hearing Wednesday before Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana.

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Agencies
February 22,2021

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Mumbai, Feb 22: Mohan Delkar, Lok Sabha member from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was found dead in a Mumbai hotel on Monday, police said.

The body of Delkar (58), a seven-term MP from the Dadra and Nagar Haveli Union Territory, was found at a Marine Drive hotel in south Mumbai, a police official said.

The official declined to comment on reports that a suicide note in Gujarati was also found with the body of the Independent MP.

Delkar was in May 2019 elected to the 17th Lok Sabha, his seventh term in the House.

He was a member of the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice and also a member of the Consultative Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs of the Lower House.

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News Network
February 22,2021

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V Narayanasamy resigned as Chief Minister of Puducherry on Monday after he failed to prove his government's majority on the floor of the Assembly.

Speaker of the Puducherry Assembly, V P Suvakolundhu, announced that the motion of confidence moved by Narayanasamy stands defeated after the chief minister and members of the ruling party staged a walkout. 

Minutes later, Narayanasamy met Lt Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and submitted his resignation. In the morning, Narayanasamy moved the motion and made a long speech during which he accused the BJP and N R Congress of toppling his government. 

Narayanasamy said the Congress staged a walkout after the Speaker refused to accept their argument that nominated MLAs do not have voting rights. He also said the BJP toppling an elected government is nothing but "political prostitution."

The L-G had last week directed Narayanasamy to prove his majority after his government plunged into a minority. The issues for the chief minister compounded on Sunday when two more legislators from Congress and DMK resigned. With this, the strength of the ruling combine came down to 12, including the Speaker. The Opposition claims support of 14 MLAs, including 3 nominated legislators who are BJP members. 

It is unclear for now whether the L-G will recommend President's rule or allow N Rangasamy, the Opposition Leader, to form a new government.

The development comes just months ahead of the elections as the tenure of the current government is scheduled to end on June 6. 

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