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Study explains why Hepatitis B vaccine uptake is dismally low in India

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New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) Despite the availability of an effective vaccine against the Hepatitis B virus for over 30 years, its uptake has been low in India due to poor knowledge and lack of awareness, according to a study by Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major global health issue, affecting around 296 million people globally and causing approximately 887,000 deaths yearly due to complications like liver end-stage liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

India has about “37 million HBV carriers”, said the researchers in the paper. Yet the knowledge about the disease as well of the preventive vaccine was found to be low.

The team surveyed 3,500 participants, excluding healthcare workers and individuals below 18 years.

Their findings, published in the online platform Cureus, showed that just 25 per cent people had adequate knowledge about the virus, such as its transmission methods, effects on the liver, and the critical importance of vaccination.

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Further, only 22.7 per cent of people were found to have completed the full Hepatitis B vaccination course.

“This low vaccination rate is alarming, especially considering the virus’s prevalence and the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing infection development of advanced liver disease called cirrhosis and liver cancer,” the principal investigator Dr. Anil Arora, Institute of Liver, Gastroenterology, and Pancreatico-Biliary Sciences, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, in a statement on Friday.

The study also highlighted disparities in vaccination uptake gender, education levels, and the urban-rural divide.

Dr. Anil emphasised the need for targeted public health interventions to improve awareness and vaccination coverage.

“Educational campaigns should focus on the general public, with particular emphasis on females, older individuals, those with lower education levels, and rural residents, who demonstrated lower knowledge scores and vaccination rates in the study participants.

“In addition, efforts should be made to increase awareness about the importance of completing the full vaccination schedule, for adequate efficacy as it was not uncommon for people to have one or two doses of vaccination and forget the last one,” the doctor said.

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–IANS

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Telangana's drugs controller suspends license of six wholesalers

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Hyderabad, May 27 (IANS) Telangana’s Drugs Control Administration has suspended the licenses of six wholesalers for 30 days for illegal procurement of insulin injections, it was announced on Monday.

The DCA said that this licence suspension is due to their illegal procurement of insulin injections (pre-filled pens) without purchase bills. The regulator has also initiated prosecution proceedings against the wholesalers.

DCA Director General V. B. Kamalasan Reddy said during raids conducted from March 15 to March 20 at six medical distributors in Hyderabad, DCA detected that insulin injections, sourced from New Delhi without purchase bills, were being sold at substantial discounts of more than 40 per cent by these wholesalers.

Drug Hub, Sree Thirumala Pharma, Shree Paras Medical Agencies, Sri Ganesh Pharma Distributors, Sree Raja Rajeshwara Distributors, and Sri Balaji Agencies are the wholesalers whose licenses have been suspended.

During these special raids, DCA officials seized stocks worth Rs 51.92 lakh, which were illegally procured from Delhi and are suspected to have been illegally diverted from the supply chain, the DG said.

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Procuring medicines illegally without purchase bills is a violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. Illegal procurement of medicines without purchase bills is deemed fraudulent primarily because it involves health and safety risks and tax evasion.

The DCA, in addition to launching prosecution against the wholesalers, has taken stringent departmental action by suspending their drug licenses for 30 days, he added.

–IANS

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UPI helped India fight Covid-19 pandemic better than the world: PM Modi (IANS Interview)

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New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) The Unified Payments Interface (UPI) facility played a significant role in India’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, even as several prosperous countries faced problems, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told IANS on Monday.

Many countries could not ensure the provision of money to their citizens due to the lack of a UPI-like service, which India had during those distressed times.

“If there was no UPI, can someone tell me how we would have fought the battle of Covid? Even the rich countries could not provide money to their people despite having sufficient funds. We gave it easily to the needy,” PM Modi told IANS in an exclusive interaction.

“Today, we can send money to 11 crore farmers within 30 seconds. Now, UPI is user-friendly because of talented youth who create such world-class products that any common person can use,” he said.

PM Modi also noted that internet data was made cheap in India during the Covid-induced lockdowns in the country in 2020 and 2021, which helped children and the youth bring about a change in their lives. He said that during the pandemic, he was worried about the life of “his now first-time voters, who were 14-15 years old at the time of Covid”.

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“So we made data very cheap. I was worried that if they remain stuck within the four walls of their homes, it will lead to the end of their childhood,” the Prime Minister said.

The logic behind making data cheaper, said PM Modi, was that “I wanted them to use the Internet and look at a new world, and it happened. We have benefited from it”.

According to data from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the cost of internet data in 2020 was reduced to Rs 10.55 per GB, enabling affordable internet access for millions of citizens. The inexpensive data has also helped the country create world-class solutions for the world, according to the Prime Minister.

These measures helped “India play a huge role in turning the problems of Covid into an opportunity”, he said.

–IANS

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IMD forecasts heat wave across most of India in June

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New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) A heat wave will sweep across most of the states in the country in June, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast on Monday.

“Above-normal monthly maximum temperatures are likely over most parts of the country in June, except many parts of the southern peninsular India, where normal to below-normal temperatures are most likely,” the IMD said.

Above-normal heat wave days are likely over most parts of northwest India and adjoining areas of central India during the next month, the IMD forecast states.

Above-normal monthly minimum temperatures are also likely across most parts of the country in June, except for the extreme northern parts of northwest India and a few pockets of east and northeast India, where normal to below-normal minimum temperatures are most likely, the IMD said.

The IMD has also warned that during heat waves, vulnerable populations, like the elderly and those with health conditions, face risks of heat-related illnesses. Prolonged extreme heat strains infrastructure and leads to dehydration. Authorities must act proactively by opening cooling centres, issuing advisories, and reducing urban heat islands. These steps are crucial for protecting public health during heat waves.

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One has to stay hydrated, remain in an optimally cool environment, and avoid strenuous activities during peak heat hours to stay safe during heat waves.

–IANS

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Centre to host PRAGATI-2024 to boost Ayurveda research, industry on Tuesday

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New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), an autonomous body under the Union Ministry of Ayush, is set to host Pharma Research in AyurGyan And Techno Innovation (PRAGATI-2024) at the India Habitat Centre in the national capital on Tuesday.

PRAGATI-2024, an interactive meeting, aims to focus on exploring research opportunities and fostering collaboration between CCRAS and the Ayurveda drug industry.

The meeting aims to maximise the potential of Ayurveda stakeholders in drug and device development by connecting researchers and industrial partners involved in manufacturing Ayurveda formulations and technological innovations.

PRAGATI-2024 will help “identify potential industrial partners willing to collaborate with CCRAS, exchange scientific knowledge, and utilise research outcomes and products in ayurvedic drug development. This initiative will enhance networking and institutional linkages, ultimately benefiting ayurvedic clinicians and patients,” the Ministry said.

“A dossier detailing all 35 formulations and three instruments developed or in progress by CCRAS, including Ayush 64, Ayush SG, Ayush Gutti, and others, will be presented to the participating industries for discussion and review,” it added.

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The event will be inaugurated by the Secretary Ministry of Ayush Vd. Rajesh Kotecha, and will witness participation from representatives of 35 pharmaceutical companies nationwide, including some CEOs, from renowned firms such as Himalaya, Emami, Baidyanath, Dabur, IMPCL, Arya Vaidya Sala, Oushadhi, and IMPCOPS.

–IANS

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Scientists identify a brain network linked to stuttering

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New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) An international team of scientists from Finland, Canada, the US, and New Zealand has discovered a specific brain network hub that plays a key role in stuttering, an advance that can lead to new treatment options.

The research, published in the Brain journal, examines two different types of stuttering — developmental and acquired.

While both types are traditionally known to be separate, the study showed that besides “similarities at the behavioural level, there are also similarities at the neural level”.

“Stuttering affects approximately 1 per cent of adults and can result in significant communication problems and social anxiety, yet the cause of stuttering is still unknown,” said lead author Catherine Theys, Associate Professor at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

The professor said that while stuttering is a developmental disorder, it can also be caused by focal brain damage after a stroke or other neurological conditions.

For the study, the team used two datasets and lesion network mapping to test whether lesions causing acquired stuttering map to a common brain network. They also used a third dataset to test whether this lesion-based network was relevant to developmental stuttering.

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Analysing each dataset, the team located a common stuttering network — a specific part of the left putamen, which is responsible for lip and face movements and timing and sequencing of speech.

They also identified two additional areas of interest for speech imaging and stuttering research — the claustrum and amygdalostriatal transition area.

“These are tiny areas of the brain — only a few mm wide — which is why they may typically not have been identified in previous studies. This shows a plausible network for stuttering,” they said, adding that the findings have relevance for treatment.

–IANS

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