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Covaxin shows excellent safety track record: Bharat Biotech on study citing risks

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Several studies on Covaxin have demonstrated an excellent safety track record, said Bharat Biotech on Thursday, after a study raised concerns of stroke and Guillain-Barre syndrome (rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nerves) a year after taking the Covid-19 vaccine.

The study, led by Banaras Hindu University (BHU), claimed that Covaxin raised the rare risk of stroke, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, among others.

“Several studies have been executed on the safety of Covaxin, and published in peer-reviewed journals, demonstrating an excellent safety track record,” the Hyderabad-based drug-maker said in a statement.

The company noted that for such a study in safety to be effective, informative and to avoid investigator bias: “AESI (adverse events of special interest) safety profile of the subjects prior to participation in the study has to be kept in mind.

“Comparison of the safety profile of non-vaccinated subjects during the course of the study, comparison of the safety profile of subjects who received other vaccines during the course of the study, and all study participants should be followed during the course of the study, instead of only a subset,” Bharat Biotech added.

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Recently, AstraZeneca admitted in the UK High Court about rare risk of blood clot disorder due to its Covid vaccine called Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Syndrome (TTS) — a blood clot disorder.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca’s vaccine, made in collaboration with Oxford University, has also been found by researchers to raise the risk of vaccine-induced immune thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT) — a rare but fatal blood clotting disorder.

–IANS

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Co-WIN being transformed into UWIN for national immunisation programme: Health Secretary

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The Co-WIN portal, which helped India fight the Covid-19 pandemic, is being transformed into UWIN for the National Immunisation Programme which will aid in linking and providing immunisation records of 30 million newborns and mothers every year, followed by Anganwadi and school health records, Union Health Secretary Apurva Chandra said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Plenary Session of the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, Chandra, Head of the Indian delegation, outlined India’s advancements in digital health.

India hosted a side event on digital health at the Plenary Session, which saw participation by the Quad countries (Australia, Japan and the US), to emphasise the potential of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) for “addressing social determinants of health”.

The side event was attended by delegates from over 100 countries, highlighting collaborative efforts in advancing digital public infrastructure globally.

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The Union Health Secretary also highlighted India’s effort under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM). With over 618 million Unique Health IDs (ABHA IDs) generated, 268,000 health facilities registered, and 350,000 healthcare professionals enlisted, ABDM exemplifies India’s commitment to digital healthcare, he said. As part of ABDM, the government is launching the National Health Claims Exchange (NHCX) to transform the insurance payments ecosystem leveraging the public-private partnership built on top of the digital public infrastructure.

“It will usher in the era of real-time settlements with auto adjudication of claims,” said Chandra.

Ambassador Arindam Bagchi, Permanent Representative of India at Geneva, highlighted the country’s commitment to leveraging digital technology to enhance healthcare accessibility and efficiency.

At the event, Ambassador Bathsheba N. Crocker, Permanent Representative of the US; Ambassador Atsuyuki Oike, Permanent Representative of Japan, and Blair Exell, Deputy Secretary, Health Strategy, First Nations and Sport, Department of Health, Australia also shared their experiences and contributions of their respective countries to digital health.

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Professor Alain Labrique, Director, Digital Health & Innovation, WHO, lauded the giant leap taken by India in implementing DPI and demonstrating its ability to facilitate healthcare delivery at scale.

–IANS

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ICMR, NIV to start phase-3 clinical trials of recombinant dengue vax: Centre

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) and other research institutes are set to launch phase-3 clinical trials of the recombinant dengue vaccine, said Apurva Chandra, Union Health Secretary on Wednesday.

He said this while addressing the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) Health Ministers’ Meeting on the sidelines of the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva.

The Health Secretary said that the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre was virtually launched during India’s presidency in March 2022.

“India has demonstrated active engagement in BRICS health track initiatives, promoting collaborative endeavours to advance joint health agendas aimed at fortifying health systems across BRICS nations, thereby addressing critical global health challenges,” Chandra said.

“ICMR along with NIV and a network of other partner Institutes is embarking on phase-3 clinical trials of recombinant dengue vaccine.”

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“In addition, ICMR and other partners will also work towards research and trials for locally endemic diseases such as Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), Nipah virus, Human Papillomavirus, MTBVAC (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Vaccine), and influenza,” he added.

Further, Chandra noted that India’s national action plan on AMR, launched in 2017, is in line with the objectives outlined in the WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

“India recognises AMR as a global concern and advocates fostering collaboration among BRICS nations to devise and execute protocols, projects, and platforms to tackle AMR,” the Union Health Secretary said.

He noted that “India acknowledges the importance of advancing collaboration within BRICS countries in nuclear medicine and radio-pharmaceutical science”.

The country also aims to strengthen “the radio-pharmaceutical supply chain and enhance isotopes production, alongside fostering the development and commercialisation of advanced digital solutions,” he added.

Chandra urged member states to enhance collaboration and work together to find solutions to various health challenges.

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–IANS

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Tele-MANAS mental health helpline gets 3,500 calls per day: Centre

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The Tele-MANAS toll-free number, launched as part of the national tele-mental health programme in India, receives 3,500 calls per day on average, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Wednesday.

Launched in October 2022, the 51 Tele-MANAS cells across all States and Union territories have since then received over 10 lakh calls, the health ministry said.

The toll-free helpline numbers 14416 or 1-800-891-4416, aimed at enhancing mental health service delivery nationwide, offers multi-language support and has been pivotal in facilitating communication between callers and mental health professionals.

As per the ministry, from around 12,000 in December 2022 to over 90,000 in May 2024, the helpline has seen a steady increase in the number of callers. It also incorporates call-backs for follow-up.

“This increase in engagement also underscores the importance of continued investment and expansion of mental health initiatives to ensure that everyone has access to the support they need,” the ministry said.

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“By linking existing mental health resources and establishing a comprehensive digital network, Tele-MANAS has become an essential platform for addressing the nation’s mental health needs,” it added.

The ministry noted that providing teleservices to target vulnerable populations represents “a significant milestone in India’s ongoing efforts to combat the mental health crisis”.

The platform will also likely be integrated with initiatives like e-Sanjeevani to further enhance accessibility and effectiveness, the ministry said, noting that it will help address the rising mental health challenges in the country.

–IANS

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Doctors at Hyderabad hospital perform heart transplant on polio survivor

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Hyderabad, May 29 (IANS) Doctors at a hospital in Hyderabad have successfully performed what is claimed to be the first-ever heart transplant on a polio survivor.

Doctors of Kamineni Hospital, LB Nagar, performed the transplant on Bhaskar, a 45-year-old tailor from Khammam district of Telangana.

He had been suffering from severe heart disease which got aggravated in the past three years due to his partial polio condition.

The transplant team included, Vishal V. Khante, Head of the Heart Transplant Department and Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Rajesh Deshmukh, Consultant Heart Transplant and Cardiothoracic Surgeon, achieved this significant milestone.

According to doctors, Bhaskar’s condition led to irregular heartbeats and insufficient blood supply, causing a range of health complications.

The five-hour surgery involved the meticulous removal of Bhaskar’s old heart, implanting the new one donated by a brain-dead individual, and reconnecting all blood vessels and valves with utmost precision.

“Following the successful surgery, Bhaskar is on the path to recovery, and is gradually regaining his ability to engage in daily activities. Previously confined to bed due to extreme fatigue, he can now walk significant distances and looks forward to resuming his normal life. However, post-surgery, Bhaskar requires intensive monitoring and ongoing medication to prevent organ rejection, and our team is constantly monitoring his condition,” said Khante.

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–IANS

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Nicotine replacement therapy may help smokers quit by 70pc, cut withdrawal symptoms

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the new hope for smokers, as it can boost quit rates by 70 per cent while also helping reduce withdrawal symptoms, said experts here on Wednesday, ahead of World No-Tobacco Day.

World No-Tobacco Day is observed on May 31 every year and serves as a critical reminder of the ongoing battle against tobacco addiction.

Data shows that India is home to 266.8 million adult tobacco users, which includes cigarette, and bidi smokers as well as smokeless tobacco users buying products in loose form.

Nicotine is the primary addictive component in cigarettes, which delivers rapid pleasurable effects through smoking.

On the other hand, NRT acts as a temporary replacement for a small quantity of nicotine. It helps control cravings, alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and also facilitate the transition to tobacco abstinence.

Dr Nikhil Modi, Consultant – Critical Care, Respiratory Medicine & Sleep Disorder, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, told IANS that “nicotine is highly addictive, making quitting difficult. While nearly 70 per cent of smokers want to quit, only 3-5 per cent succeed”.

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Unlike cigarettes, NRT provides a gradual and very small increase in blood nicotine levels, discouraging misuse. NRT aims to enable people to quit smoking with the help of nicotine delivery systems with reduced addictiveness.

“Without adequate cessation services, 160 million more smokers worldwide could die by 2050. Despite having 19 cessation centres in India, we still have the world’s second-largest smoking population. It’s time to move beyond stereotypes and adopt the successful strategies of other nations,” Dr Nikhil said.

Tobacco is a risk factor for health and is known to raise the risk of cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and stroke.

The widespread use of NRT by the US and some European countries has shown success. The experts called on India to overcome significant challenges in NRT awareness and accessibility to replicate these successes.

“NRT, available in various forms like patches, lozenges, inhalers, sprays, and gum, can increase quit rates by 50-70 per cent by alleviating withdrawal symptoms and cravings,” Dr Pawan Gupta, Senior Consultant, Department of Pulmonology, BLK MAX Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.

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He said quitting tobacco abruptly can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, insomnia, mood changes, and poor cognition.

“This is where non-tobacco substitutes play a crucial role. NRT is effective in reducing the urge to smoke gradually. Safer alternatives such as NRT have seen substantial success in countries such as the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, and France.”

“Ensuring the hassle-free availability and accessibility of NRT could greatly assist Indian smokers in quitting,” he added.

–IANS

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