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Expert Panel Recommended Sputnik V for Emergency Use as India Overtakes Brazil in Number of Covid Cases

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 12: While India jumped to second spot as the worst-hit country after the United States overtaking Brazil in the total number of Coronavirus cases on Monday, an expert committee recommended the Russia-made Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use to boost up the vaccination drive in the country.

Reporting yet another new record with 1.68 lakh new cases in the last 24 hours on Monday taking the country’s total number of cumulative cases to 1,35,27,717, India just surpassed Brazil’s total of 13.5 million cases.

Besides the number of new cases, Monday’s tally of 904 deaths was the highest daily casualty so far. According to the data released by the Union Health Ministry, there are 12,01,009 active cases in the country at present while 1,21,56,529 people have recovered from the disease. The death toll has risen to 1,70,179 while 10,45,28,565 people have been administered the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) on Monday took up the application of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories seeking emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V and forwarded the recommendation for its emergency use in the country with certain conditions.

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) will take a final call on the recommendation. After Covishield and Covaxin, this will become the third Covid-19 vaccine to be used in the country if it is given a go-ahead by the DCGI. The vaccine initially would be imported from Russia for emergency use in the country, official sources said.

Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company, last week sought the government’s approval for the vaccine to be used in India. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) partnered with Dr Reddy’s in September 2020 to conduct clinical trials of Sputnik V in India. The Russian vaccine has an efficacy of 91.6% based on the interim analysis of phase III clinical trials, which included data from 19,866 volunteers in Russia. and is conducting its Phase III clinical trials in the UAE, India, Venezuela and Belarus, according to the Sputnik-V’s website.

Along with Dr Reddy’s, RDIF partnered with Hyderabad-based Virchow Biotech Private Limited in March to produce up to 200 million doses per year of Sputnik V in India. It has also partnered with Stelis Biopharma Pvt Ltd and Panacea Biotec earlier in April as well to produce 200 million and 100 million doses per year of Sputnik V in the country.

The makers of the vaccine claim Sputnik-V is an affordable vaccine and can be “stored at a temperature of +2 to +8°C “. They say that these aspects of Sputnik-V allow for fast distribution of the vaccine in hard-to-reach regions across the globe.

The move to approve Sputnik-V by the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) comes as India faces a surge in Covid-19 cases across the nation with Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Kerala witnessing a surge in their daily caseload.

As the Gujarat High Court taking up a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pulled up the state government on Monday for not doing enough to control the spike, at a review meeting on the Covid-19 situation in the national capital, Delhi Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said several steps were being taken to increase the number of beds in both private and government hospitals in the city. Some government and private hospitals will again be converted into fully COVID facilities, government officials said.

“Held review meeting. We r taking several steps to increase beds in both pvt and govt sectors. Urge everyone to cooperate. 1. Pl pl follow covid protocols 2. Don’t rush to hospital unless necessary 3. Go n vaccinate if u r eligible,” Kejriwal said in a tweet.

The Maharashtra government said it was still weighing the pros and cons for a total lockdown in the entire state as cases kept rising in the worst-hit state. The BMC has stated that it will operationalise 1,100 additional DCHC/DCH COVID beds including 125 ICUs in the next 7 days.

BMC has added 325 additional ICU beds in various hospitals in Mumbai and the number of ICU beds has gone up to 2,466 now. The total number of COVID beds on online bed allotment dashboard has gone up to 19,151, comprising 141 hospitals, out of which presently 3777 DCHC/DCH beds are vacant.

Any patient calling the Ward War Room for a Covid bed between 11 pm and 7 am will be referred to a particular jumbo field hospital. On arrival at a particular jumbo hospital, a suitable bed will be allotted to the patient after assessing his medical condition.

All bed allotments between 11 pm and 7 am will be predominantly done in jumbo field hospitals only and fast-track bed allotment will be ensured throughout the night by nodal officers at Ward War Rooms and jumbo field hospitals respectively, the Maharashtra government officials said.

The Gujarat High Court pulled up the state government over the COVID-19 situation in the state and problems being faced by citizens, saying the reality is contrary to what the government claims.

“People now think that they are at God’s mercy,” a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia said while hearing a PIL, taken up suo motu on the coronavirus situation in the state.

After Advocate General Kamal Trivedi informed the HC about steps taken by the state government to tackle the COVID-19 situation, the court said the reality is quite different from what the government claims

“The situation is quite different than what you are claiming. You are saying that everything is alright. But the reality is contrary to that,” the high court said during the hearing held via video-conferencing.

There is a “trust deficit” among people, it observed. On complaints of acute shortage of Remdesivir injections, the court asked the advocate general, “if 27,000 injection stocks are available with the government as you said, why people are not getting it? Government says there is no shortage of Remdesivir. Everything is available with you. We want results, not reasons,” the HC said,

Outside the court, Trivedi, however, told media persons that shortage of Remdesivir was “artificial” as people resorted to “panic buying.” The injection would be made available to every patient recommended by the doctor. But relatives of many patients have resorted to “stock” the injection “in case the patient needed it someday,” he claimed.

The court also took strong objections to the prolonged delays in getting the RT-PCR test results. “It now takes almost five days for a person to get the RT-PCR test result,” the court noted.

“You did not upscale the testing facilities when you had time,” the HC said. Gujarat reported 5,469 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, its biggest single-day rise since the beginning of the pandemic, which took its caseload to 3,47,495. The number of deaths due to the virus went up to 4,800 as 54 patients succumbed to the infection on Sunday, as per the state health department.