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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

India aims to have Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August

Jack Burton

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India aims to have Covid-19 vaccine by mid-August | Thaiger
PHOTO: tabipacademy.com

But scientists are skeptical at the speed of the development. India has announced its plan to take its first Covid-19 vaccine from human trials to general use by mid-August, just 6 weeks from now. Bharat Biotech International, an unlisted vaccine maker, received regulatory approval to start human clinical trials for its experimental vaccine earlier this week, but it’s already got India’s top medical research body expediting the process.

Bloomberg reports that a July 2 letter from the Indian Council of Medical Research to clinical trial sites said the vaccine is “envisaged to be rolled out for public health use by August 15, after completion of all clinical trials,” and that it’s “one of the top priority projects which is being monitored at the topmost level of the government.”

There is no evidence that Bharat Biotech’s vaccine is safe for human use, not to mention effective at providing any protection, short or long term. The “envisioned” timeline is far shorter than other front-runner vaccine efforts from American and Chinese drug makers, most of whom started human clinical trials months ago, and are now entering the last of 3 stages of testing.

There has never been an effective vaccine developed for any of the coronavirus family of diseases – SARS, MERS, the ‘common cold’ – 229E (alpha coronavirus), NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus), HKU1 (beta coronavirus) – or Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Influenza (Flu) is NOT a coronavirus.

The announcement of a potential vaccine underlines India’s desperate need to find a way to stem the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 650,000 people and killed over 18,600 in the country, making it Asia’s new epicentre with the world’s fourth-largest outbreak. In its letter, the ICMR urged the trial sites to enroll volunteers by Tuesday.

The proposed speed has alarmed many in the medical fraternity. According to a tweet from a medical researcher at India’s Manipal University…

“Such an accelerated development pathway has not been done EVER for any kind of vaccine, even the ones being tried out in other countries. Even with accelerated timelines, this seems rushed and hence, has potential risks.”

The government of Indian PM Narendra Modi is anxious to create the impression it has gained control over the outbreak, after abandoning a costly lockdown that caused tremendous economic suffering without slowing the spread of the virus. The August 15 deadline for the Bharat vaccine may reflect that political pressure: that’s the day India celebrates its Independence from the British.

SOURCE: Bloomberg | Bangkok Post

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid UPDATE: 2,070 new infections, provincial totals

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Covid UPDATE: 2,070 new infections, provincial totals | Thaiger

2,070 new Covid-19 cases and 4 coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed today by the CCSA, raising the total number of cases since the outbreak on April 1 to 21,230 and this month’s Covid death toll to 27.

The reported number is the highest daily total ever reported in Thailand.

There are now 15,642 people being treated in hospitals for Covid-19, including 352 people who are in critical condition with with “severe pneumonia”. 91 Covid patients are on ventilators. Another 4,231 people with Covid-19 are in field hospitals.

Here are the provincial totals in an infographic from the NBT…

Covid UPDATE: 2,070 new infections, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

Here are some additional notes, also from the NBT site…

• New small cluster of Covid-19 infection found in elderly care nursing home in Bangkok while Chiang Mai also found other small cluster in Meditation venue
• More personnel have been deployed to staff the 1668 and 1669 Covid-19 hotlines
• Russian President Vladimir Putin has personally vowed to support Thailand’s Covid battle and agreed to supply Thailand with Sputnik V vaccine via a “government-to-government” contract
• More provinces have ordered people to wear face masks in public in response to the so-called third wave
• The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is planning to establish more ‘hospitel’ (hospital/hotel) for patients without severe symptoms to cope with the increasing number of serious virus patients
• Thailand’s Immigration Bureau announced that its online service has been resumed (Thaiger readers are still not having much luck)

Covid UPDATE: 2,070 new infections, provincial totals | News by Thaiger

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Buddhism officials call on temples to cremate those who die while infected with Covid-19

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Buddhism officials call on temples to cremate those who die while infected with Covid-19 | Thaiger

With Thailand’s Covid-related death toll on the rise, Thai Buddhism officials calling on temples to cremate the bodies of those who died and were infected with the coronavirus. Many Thais believe that cremation helps the spirit move on.

Director of the National Office of Buddhism, Narong Song-arom, says the office has coordinated with temples across Thailand to make sure those who die while infected with Covid-19 have a proper cremation service, which is important in Thai culture.

“We want to make sure that Covid-19 victims receive their last rites.”

A monk at Wat Phai Lom, where the bodies of 5 Covid patients were cremated, says that if the bodies are handled properly, there is no risk of infection or contamination. The abbot, Phra Kru Palat Sitiwat, says the body should be sealed in plastic and placed in a coffin. The coffin, along with the transport vehicle, should both be cleaned and disinfected before the coffin is taken to the incinerator. The crematorium is also disinfected before the prayer ceremony which takes around 20 minutes.

Narong adds that the funeral services can go on, even in high risk areas, as long as attendees abide by disease control measures like social distancing and disinfecting the area to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The abbot says some of the Covid victims were sent to Wat Phai Lom from other communities. He’s now calling on other temples to cremate the bodies of those who died while infected with Covid-19.

A recent report in Thai media says a community in the Isaan province Loei refused to cremate the body of a woman who was not infected with Covid-19, but died in a virus hotspot in Chon Buri. The woman’s family says the community was concerned about Covid-19 transmission because Chon Buri is a “red zone” province and her body was sent back to the coastal province for cremation.

“They were concerned that we would bring the virus to the community because we collected the body from a red zone province… We had a medical certificate stating that the cause of death was suffocation.”

The US Center for Disease Control says there is little risk of contracting Covid-19 from a dead body. The virus is known to typically spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or talks, and then the droplets land on a person nearby or are breathed in.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland

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Fake Pfizer vaccines seized in Mexico and Poland | Thaiger
PHOTO: Beware of fake Covid-19 vaccines.

A wave of fake Pfizer vaccines have been seized in Mexico and Poland where counterfeiting Covid-19 jabs has become a big business. The US pharmaceutical company confirms that the jabs that have been collected were not authentic and were selling on the black market for up to US $1,000 per vaccine. A Pfizer spokesperson said that they’re aware that anonymous online selling makes it easy to commit fraud and to pedal counterfeit Covid-19 vaccines and that this problem is growing as people are desperate for vaccination and to finally reach an end to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In Mexico, at least 80 people were injected with these fake Covid-19 jabs according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Mexican officials said that they identified the counterfeit vaccines by checking the fake serial numbers and expiration dates. While the vaccines do not appear to be harmful in any way, they also definitely do not offer any protection against Covid-19. The jabs were found stored in beer coolers and some were identified to contain nothing more than distilled water.

The World Health Organization issued a warning last month that these fake Pfizer vaccines have been found in Mexico and may still be circulating. In Neuvo Leon, a northern Mexican state, Mexican authorities first identified bogus jabs being sold on the black market in February. Pfizer had tested these vaccines and confirmed they were not real Covid-19 jabs.

Mexico is also looking at a recent arrival of 6000 vaccines purportedly of the Russian Sputnik vaccine. This shipment was seized on a private plane en route to Honduras last month.

The shortage of availability of authentic vaccines in many parts of the world has led to a rise in counterfeit production and scams. Last month an army medic was accused of selling fake vaccines to Thai soldiers. As supply and production slowly increase this problem may lessen, but while production is not meeting demand there is a window of opportunity for scammers. Fake vaccines in China had been reportedly circulating since September.

Meanwhile in Poland officials confiscated counterfeit vaccines filled with a substance that’s used in anti-wrinkle cream and beauty products. Polish police seized a box labelled as the Pfizer vaccine from a man’s apartment. Pfizer easily identified the counterfeit product because they use different vials than what the company uses for its Covid-19 jab. In fact, the police also found identical vials from anti-wrinkle treatment products in the man’s apartment. Fortunately, it looked like nobody had received a fake injection yet. The man was arrested and charged with fraud.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World and Wall Street Journal

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