Pune institute to launch human trials to test new BCG vaccine against virus

A BCG vaccine, which is primarily used against tuberculosis and given to newborns, has been improved by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). It will be used in human clinical trials soon to test its efficacy in improving overall immunity against COVID-19.

  • BCG vaccination prevents severe forms of tuberculosis in children and diversion of local supplies may result in neonates not being vaccinated, resulting in an increase of disease and deaths from tuberculosis.
  • In the absence of evidence, WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19.
  • WHO continues to recommend neonatal BCG vaccination in countries or settings with a high incidence of tuberculosis.
  • SII, the largest manufacturer of vaccines against polio and diphtheria, has received a go-ahead from the Drug Controller General of India to start human clinical trials.
  • Some sites have been identified, where 6,000-7,000 participants will undergo the trials.
  • The new and improved recombinant one will be used in the clinical trial. Many believe that countries where the BCG vaccine has been given have fewer COVID-19 fatalities and lesser severity of cases.
  • Hence, testing the BCG vaccine’s ability in improving overall immunity is crucial before we prescribe and recommend the same.
  • A clinical trial will be launched soon and it should be over within two months.
  • Researchers say the vaccine will be initially given to two groups — healthcare workers and family contacts of patients with COVID-19.
  • Swab samples will be taken from all of them to check if they are negative for the disease before the BCG shots are given.
  • There will be stimulation of the immunological system, which may help prevent the person from getting complications related to the disease.
  • There is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine (BCG) protects people against infection with COVID-19 virus.
  • Two clinical trials addressing this question are underway, and WHO will evaluate the evidence when it is available. In the absence of evidence, WHO does not recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19.
  • WHO continues to recommend neonatal BCG vaccination in countries or settings with a high incidence of tuberculosis.
  • Experimental evidence: There is experimental evidence from both animal and human studies that the BCG vaccine has non-specific effects on the immune system. These effects have not been well characterized and their clinical relevance is unknown.

China has replaced Russia as ‘the foreign hand’ in American politics

As the US presidential poll due in early November became a two-horse race with the Donald Trump’s reelection campaign greeted the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, with an attack and accusing him of standing up for China.

As the US becomes the largest victim of the coronavirus — over 22,000 dead and counting — the question of China’s role in triggering the pandemic has inevitably become a major domestic political issue, which cuts across the divide between Republicans and Democrats

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed the United States’ dangerous dependence on China for pharmaceutical and medical supplies (especially antibiotics).

The economic repercussions of the coronavirus reveal the dangers of allowing one country to have a near monopoly on global manufacturing.

The Trump campaign argues that Joe Biden, democratic nominee is shielding a China, which kept the world in the dark about the coronavirus.

Thanks to the bitter legacy of Partition and the accumulated grievances since then, India and Pakistan are considered forever the “foreign hands” in each other’s domestic politics.

Those who deal with India’s other neighbours know how the “foreign hand” of India is always the first factor to explain any internal development.

But in the last few years, we have seen the politics of “foreign hand” infect most developed states.

Russian interference in West: Russian interference in the domestic politics of the West is born out of Russian political resentments being channelled by President Vladimir Putin. And that Russian investment in the dark arts of disinformation and social media manipulation has come in focus.

‘Russian collusion’ was seen as a reason behind the unexpected victory of Donald trump. The intense polarisation of US politics around the Russia question has had a powerful impact on foreign policy.

Western interference in Russian politics: Moscow certainly had a political incentive to poke into the domestic politics of the Western world. After all, the Obama Administration was touting the virtues of the internet in forcing open Russian politics dominated by Putin.

U.S Decreasing obsession with Russia: To the naked eye, it would seem Russia with its GDP of $1.6 trillion can hardly pose a challenge to the US that stands at $22 trillion. Yet, the US political debate was obsessed with the “Russian threat” and it prevented Washington from even limited cooperation with Moscow based on self-interest. Russia also clouded the US establishment thinking on the nature of external challenges confronting it.

Rising China becoming a challenge for U.S : As the virus and China move to the top of the US domestic agenda, their impact on Washington’s relations with Beijing is bound to be significant. And unlike Russia, China is far more central to the US economy and a powerful political challenger to America’s global leadership.

When domestic contestation overwhelms foreign policy discourse, there is no knowing where it might lead to. What we do know is that China has replaced Russia as “the foreign hand” in American politics.