WHO says reviewing report on concerns over airborne spread of Covid-19

Agencies
July 7, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reviewing a report that suggested its advice on the novel coronavirus needs updating after some scientists told the New York Times there was evidence the virus could be spread by tiny particles in the air.

The WHO says the Covid-19 disease spreads primarily through small droplets, which are expelled from the nose and mouth when an infected person breaths them out in coughs, sneezes, speech or laughter and quickly sink to the ground.

In an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined the evidence they say shows that smaller exhaled particles can infect people who inhale them, the newspaper said on Saturday.

Because those smaller particles can linger in the air longer, the scientists - who plan to publish their findings in a scientific journal this week - are urging WHO to update its guidance, the Times said.

"We are aware of the article and are reviewing its contents with our technical experts," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in an email reply on Monday to a Reuters request for comment.

The extent to which the coronavirus can be spread by the so-called airborne or aerosol route - as opposed to by larger droplets in coughs and sneezes - remains disputed.

Any change in the WHO's assessment of the risk of transmission could affect its current advice on keeping one-metre physical distancing. Governments, which also rely on the agency for guidance policy, may also have to adjust public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

"Especially in the last couple of months, we have been stating several times that we consider airborne transmission as possible but certainly not supported by solid or even clear evidence," Benedetta Allegranzi, the WHO's technical lead for infection prevention and control, was quoted as saying in the New York Times.

WHO guidance to health workers, dated June 29, says that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and on surfaces.

But airborne transmission via smaller particles is possible in some circumstances, such as when performing intubation and aerosol-generating procedures, it says.

Medical workers performing such procedures should wear heavy-duty N95 respiratory masks and other protective equipment in an adequately ventilated room, the WHO says.

Officials at South Korea's Centers for Disease Control said on Monday they were continuing to discuss various issues about Covid-19, including the possible airborne transmission. They said more investigations and evidence were needed.

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Agencies
November 25,2020

In view of the winter season and COVID-19, health experts on Wednesday said that many people are taking pneumonia and influenza vaccines as a precaution to save themselves from respiratory infections.

Experts have warned that it is highly possible that people may contract both influenza and the COVID-19 infection in winter, leading to devastating consequences.

Dr Avi Kumar, Consultant - Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi said, "What we are generally following is that in post COVID patients we are giving flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine."

"Because right now we are at the start of winter and this is generally the beginning of flu season as well as coronavirus. Both are RnA viruses so the vaccine which is available against influenza is known to be very helpful in reducing hospitalization," Kumar explained.

International researchers have recently found that receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person's risk of contracting COVID-19 or worsen associated morbidity or mortality.

Published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, the study shows the flu vaccine is the single most important intervention to help in staying healthy this fall and winter.

"More studies need to be done to confirm the same, only a few studies cannot confirm it," Kumar said.

"However, what is available with us right now is prevention of other respiratory infections in the form of flu as well as pneumonia so that hospitals are not overburdened with other respiratory illnesses as well as Covid patients," he added.

"Hence, we prefer tetravalent inactivated flu vaccine which has been given to every patient in post Covid status.

"In addition we have been giving them vaccines for pneumonia, conjugate vaccine is been given to the age group of above 65 years, this vaccine is given only once in a lifetime. We are also giving a polyvalent vaccine which is to be repeated once in every five years," Kumar said.

According to Dr Akshay Budhraja, Consultant Department of Pulmonology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, in the absence of a vaccine specific to the Covid-19 virus right now, they are checking the vaccination history of the patient.

"We give one shot of flu vaccine every year and pneumococcal vaccine is given once in five years. As of now, we have not faced any shortage," Budhraja told IANS.

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Agencies
November 24,2020

 

Geneva, Nov 24: "There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic," said the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO chief's remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was up to 90 percent effective, making it the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

"The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development," Tedros added.

He pointed out now the international community must set a new standard for access, as "the urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly."

Worried that the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines, WHO established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator to support global efforts in developing vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and has joined so far 187 countries in the COVAX facility to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, ensuring affordable prices, volumes and timing for all countries.

According to the WHO chief, some US $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments, while additional US $23.8 billion will be needed next year.

"The International Monetary Fund estimates that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost US $9 trillion by the end of 2025," he said.

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Agencies
December 1,2020

Pune, Dec 1: Vaccine development company Serum Institute, India on Tuesday said the Covidshield vaccine will not be released for mass use unless it is proven immunogenic, and safe.

The company also said the serious adverse event (SAE) that happened to a city based volunteer though unfortunate was in no way induced by the vaccine.

Serum Institute which had earlier said it would claim over Rs 100 crore damage from the volunteer for damaging its reputation said it was sympathetic with the volunteer's medical condition and the incident is highly unfortunate.

"However, we would like to clarify that all the requisite regulatory and ethical processes and guidelines were followed diligently and strictly," the company said.

According to Serum Institute, the concerned authorities were informed and the Principal Investigator, Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) and the Ethics Committee independently cleared and reckoned it as a non-related issue to the vaccine trial.

"Post which we submitted all the reports and data related to the incident to the DCGI (Drug Controller General of India). It is only after we cleared all the required processes that we continued with the trials," the company said.

"Taking into consideration the complexities and existing misnomers about vaccination and immunisation; the legal notice was sent therefore to safeguard the reputation of the company which is being unfairly maligned," the company added.

The 40-year-old city based volunteer, who works as a business consultant had wanted to investigate the cause of him contracting severe neurological health complications he had suffered after being vaccinated with Covidshield shots under development at Serum Institute, but the company was intimidating him with a threat of over Rs 100 crore damage suit, his advocates had said.

According to the advocates, their client was vaccinated on September 29 and developed severe neurological health complications and instead of probing the cause and stopping the trials Serum Institute and others kept silent.

"We are yet to get any reply for the legal notice sent to various parties, including Serum Institute. We have seen news reports about Serum Institute threatening our client with a suit for over Rs 100 crore," N.G.R. Prasad, Advocate, Row & Reddy, told IANS.

"Our client had restricted his claim only for Rs 5 crore and wanted investigation to start as to the cause of him suffering severe neurological problems and stop the vaccine from affecting other people," Prasad added.

A family friend of the volunteer told IANS: "He was a healthy young male. He had no pre-existing ailments. Not even blood pressure. But 10 days after the vaccination, he had developed severe neurological complications."

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