Harsh Vardhan on October 18 stated that no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India so far, which is "either more transmission efficient or more pathogenic"
As the number of novel coronavirus cases in India is about to hit 7.5 million, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan on October 18 stated that no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India so far, which is "either more transmission efficient or more pathogenic".
Addressing the sixth episode of 'Sunday Samvaad', his weekly interaction, the minister noted, "Although there are no intranasal COVID-19 vaccines under trial in India at the moment, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech are expected to pursue clinical trials of such vaccines in India in the coming months on receipt of regulatory approval."
Vardhan said that the Centre has released Rs 1,352 crore as Phase II of the COVID package to 33 states and union territories. The package was released in tranches during August, September and October 2020.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Here are the key takeaways from the Sunday Samvaad:
1) Vardhan reiterated his request to everyone to celebrate festivals at home with their loved ones in the traditional way. He cited the example of Kerala which was paying the price of gross negligence during the recent Onam festivities, leading to the spreading of COVID-19 cases.
2) "Consumers should look for FDA/CE-approved products with ISO/ IEC specifications while purchasing a pulse oximeter from the market or from the online retailers," said the minister while responding to question on the market being flooded with oximeters made in China.
3) "As of yet, no mutation of coronavirus has been detected in India, which is either more transmission efficient or more pathogenic," the health minister added.
4) The Centre has already released the Phase II of the COVID package to 33 states and union territories of Rs 1352 crore. The Phase II grant has been released in tranches during August, September and October 2020.
5) There is no scientific evidence that proves that novel coronavirus transmission can happen via newspapers. The minister said that reading newspapers is completely safe even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
6) He assured that there is no shortage of medical oxygen and the current oxygen production capacity of India is around 6400 MT/day.
7) The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority has fixed the price of Liquid Medical Oxygen; Guidelines on rational use of oxygen for management of COVID-19 have also been issued.
8) Although there are no intranasal COVID-19 vaccines under trial in India at the moment, Serum India and Bharat Biotech are expected to pursue clinical trials of such vaccines in India in the coming months on receipt of regulatory approvals.
9) The Phase III Clinical Trial is generally with thousands of participants, sometimes even close to 30,000 to 40,000 participants. It is possible that from a specific city or hospital, a couple of hundred participants are selected at a given time, but in general, the overall Phase III participant pool is much larger.
10) On the Special Drive for ADVERSE Drug Reaction (ADR) reporting and monitoring of drugs used in COVID-19, Vardhan clarified that this special drive is not because of an adverse reaction reported with an existing drug, but is part of a proactive COVID-19 preparedness programme.11) On the issue of online education, the minister said, "Medical colleges and institutions in India are conducting online classes for MBBS students which have been approved by the National Medical Commission. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had also issued Standard Operating Procedures on professional training for medical post-graduate students in the context of COVID-19."