Current Affairs 4th March

Covaxin efficacy is 81%, works against variants #GS3 #SnT

Covaxin, India’s first COVID-19 vaccine, has demonstrated an interim clinical efficacy of 81% in the phase 3 clinical trial. The vaccine demonstrated high clinical efficacy and significant immunogenicity against variants, the company’s CMD, Krishna Ella, said.

25,800 participants

A statement from Bharat Biotech, which developed the vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said 25,800 participants between ages 18 and 98 were enrolled for the phase 3 study. It included 2,433 over the age of 60 and 4,500 with comorbidities.

The first results from phase 3, called the primary endpoint, are based on the first occurrence of Polymerase Chain Reaction-confirmed symptomatic (mild, moderate, or severe) COVID-19 with onset at least 14 days after the second vaccine dose.

The interim analysis is based on 43 cases, of which 36 COVID-19 cases were observed in the placebo group and seven in the Covaxin group, a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 80.6%. The interim analysis showed that severe, serious, and medically attended adverse events were at low levels and balanced between vaccine and placebo groups.

Benefit of the News– Covaxin efficacy

Field trials for Census-NPR to begin soon #GS2 #Governance

The Registrar-General of India (RGI) is preparing to conduct field trials of the first phase of the Census and the National Population Register (NPR) using a mobile application in all the States and Union Territories.

The first phase involving house listing and housing census, along with updating the NPR, was scheduled from April 1 last year, but was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. It is unlikely that the exercise will be conducted this year as the vaccination drive is still at an early stage.

However, the officials are planning to conduct pre-tests or field trials through the app in one block each of every district, which is expected to cover 50 to 60 households. The app will contain questionnaires on house listing and housing census and the NPR.

The dates for conducting the Census exercise have not been finalised yet. But the enumerators will have to be trained in using the app. Many enumerators are young schoolteachers who are expected to use the app instead of the paper schedule [form]. There will be incentives for the electronic form,” the official said.

The second phase of the Census is population enumeration. The RGI, on January 9, 2020, notified the 31 columns for which the enumerators will seek response for the house listing and housing census.

The questions include whether the respondent has access to LPG or piped natural gas connection; owns a radio, transistor, television, laptop, computer, telephone, mobile phone or smartphone; and has access to the Internet.

The questions for the NPR have not been made public yet, but the pre-test conducted in 2019 included additional questions such as the date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue, Aadhaar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driving licence numbers. The Opposition-ruled States have expressed apprehensions over the additional questions.

Electronic database

In 2010 and 2015, the NPR collected details on 14 parameters only. It already has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents. The app will have the NPR schedule also. Before it is rolled out, the app has to be tested for glitches, and field trials are to be conducted.

On February 10, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai informed the Rajya Sabha that “an app for the collection of data and a Census portal for the management and monitoring of various Census-related activities has been developed”.

“Instruction manuals for enumerators and other Census functionaries have been prepared. A pre-test of the Census was undertaken from August 12, 2019 to September 30, 2019 in selected areas of all the States and Unions Territories to test the Census questionnaire and methodology,” he said.

Benefit of the NewsCensus 2021 phase begins

14 Trojans found in servers, says Minister #GS3 #SnT

Two days after Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh submitted a report prepared by the State’s cyber cell on a possible cyberattack that caused the October 12 power outage in Mumbai and parts of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Power Minister Nitin Raut said the report found 14 Trojan programs that had entered the Maharashtra State Electricity Transmission Company (MahaTransco) servers.

According to observations in the report, the firewalls of the information technology [IT] and operational technology [OT] servers, which are essential for power transmission, were affected by these Trojan horses. Suspicious codes and software programs that can affect the cybersecurity ecosystem at the State Load Dispatch Center [SLDC] at Kalva had found its way into the system. Similar Trojan programs were part of bigger cyberattacks in the past, he added.

The Minister said repeated attempts were made from blacklisted and suspicious IP addresses to log in to the SLDC server, and to hack and disrupt the system. “Credit rating agencies have certified these IP addresses as suspicious and disruptive,” he said, adding that an attempt was made to either insert or remove around 8 GB of data from the server using the IP addresses.

According to the Minister, the report recommended a separation of the IT and OT infrastructure and an updation, password management, enhancement of the web application security and a strengthening of the cyber system of the SLDC. 

In addition to the probe conducted by the State cyber cell, a technical committee, which included experts from IIT-Bombay, VNIT- Nagpur, VJTI-Mumbai and senior officials from the Power Department, was formed.

Benefit of the NewsAbout Trojan

‘Vaccine lifts antibody level in 14 days’ #GS3 #SnT

Antibodies against the novel coronavirus begin to appear significantly only 14 days after a vaccine injection. But in people who have already been infected by SARS-CoV-2 before, the increase can be observed in a week.

While underlining the importance of the follow-up second shot, scientists associated with the study suggest that in mass vaccination campaigns, individuals who have been infected previously be prioritised below those unexposed.

According to several serology surveys, anywhere from 21% to 60% of India may have been exposed to the virus since March. While India currently does not face supply constraints — there are more vaccines available than those registering for shots as of now — this could change as more groups become eligible for the vaccine.

The study, yet to be formally published but available as a preprint, measured antibodies generated in 135 healthcare workers administered with Covishield at different weeks or time points (0, 7, 14, 28 days). A third of the workers had already been exposed to the virus and in them, the antibody response progressively increased at each of those time points. 

In contrast, the antibody response started to show only after 14 days or later in 88 of the rest, who had been unexposed to the virus. Three did not develop any antibody response even at day 28 of the vaccination.

The results also showed that antibodies in those infected earlier started to stabilise, even decline, after day 14 but were still substantially higher — in one instance nearly thousand-fold at day 28 — than those who were inoculated with Covishield but with no prior exposure to the virus. 

Currently, the longevity of antibodies after a COVID-19 infection has not been firmly established, nor is the immunity after being exposed to a particular strain of the virus.

Our data suggests that ChAdOx1 (or Covishield) is highly immunogenic, particularly so where previous SARS-CoV-2 antibody-response is established. Given the high background seropositivity in India, this may be useful in determining optimal timing of the second dose during mass immunisation. We were surprised by the number of antibodies generated in those already exposed to the infection.

Benefit of the NewsVaccine and its antibody

Vaccine can be taken 24/7, says Centre #GS3 #SnT

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan reiterated that the government had done away with the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. timeline for giving COVID-19 vaccination and that beneficiaries can take the vaccine round the clock. “The move is aimed at increasing the pace of the vaccination.

The government has lifted the time restriction to increase the speed of vaccination. People can now get vaccinated 24×7 according to their convenience. Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands the value of health as well as the time of citizens.

CoWIN 2.0 allows flexibility of time and if a hospital has the capacity, the system permits it to do vaccination even after 5 p.m. in consultation with the State government. This has been briefed both to the State governments as well as the private and government hospitals.

The second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination commenced on March 1 for people over 60 years, and those aged 45 years and above with specified comorbid conditions. The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 and vaccination of frontline workers started on February 2.

Benefit of the NewsVaccine 24/7 now

India is ‘partly free’, says U.S. thinktank #GS2 #IR

Freedoms in India have reduced, according to a report from a U.S. thinktank, Freedom House, resulting in India being classified as ‘partly free’. India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year (reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (based on 2020 data).

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its State-level allies continued to crack down on critics during the year…,” the report “Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege” said. “The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus …,” it said.

Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Mr. Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.

The private media are vigorous and diverse, and investigations and scrutiny of politicians do occur. However, attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically under the Modi government, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years,” the report said, citing the use of security, defamation, sedition and contempt of court laws to quiet critical media voices.

Separately, revelations of close relationships between politicians, business executives and lobbyists on one hand and leading media personalities and owners of media outlets, on the other, have dented public confidence in the press,” the report said.

On the U.S., the Freedom House said the risky state of American democracy was on display during the January 6 attack on the Capitol. It listed what it called the Trump presidency’s “ unprecedented attacks” on American democracy (examples included were dismissing inspectors general to sowing mistrust over the electoral system). The U.S. dropped three points over one year, down to 83/100.

“ …The United States will need to work vigorously to strengthen its institutional safeguards, restore its civic norms and uphold the promise of its core principles for all segments of society if it is to protect its venerable democracy and regain global credibility.”

China, classified as ‘not free’, dropped a point from last year going down to 9/100.

“The malign influence of the regime in China, the world’s most populous dictatorship, was especially profound in 2020,” the report says citing Beijing’s disinformation and censorship campaign following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Benefit of the NewsFreedom in the World 2021: Democracy under Siege

India, 17 countries face U.S. anti-dumping tax #GS3 #Economy

The U.S. Department of Commerce is preparing to tax aluminium sheet exporters from 18 countries after determining that they had benefited from subsidies and dumping.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent body, must approve the final decision by April 15 to impose anti-dumping or countervailing duties.

The investigation, launched under the Donald Trump administration, had been requested by nearly a dozen U.S. aluminium alloy manufacturers, including Arconic and Aleris Rolled products, which felt they were being harmed by competing imports at lower prices.

President Joe Biden’s administration determined that imports from Germany in particular ($287 million in 2019) benefited from dumping, ranging from 40% to 242%.

The same is true for aluminium alloy sheets from Bahrain ($241 million), which the administration said benefited from pricing below the cost of production or the local market of 83%. Imports from India ($123 million in 2019) have benefited from subsidies for 35% to 89%, according to the U.S. investigation.

Benefit of the NewsAnti-dumping duty