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Serum Institute of India readying one million doses of five Covid-19 vaccines

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 24:

Serum Institute of India (SII) is readying one billion doses of five different vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) across the world before the end of 2021-22, a report has said.

Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, said his company plans to launch at least one vaccine every quarter likely by the beginning of next year.

These will include Covishield, Covovax, COVIVAXX, COVI-VAC, and SII COVAX.

Covishield, which is being developed by the United Kingdom’s Oxford University, and licensed from British-Swedish drug-maker AstraZeneca, is currently undergoing Phase 3 of clinical trials in India among nearly 1,600 people.

SII has partnered with AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine candidate, which is expected to be launched in the first quarter of next year and immunisation can start by January if the clearances are given early.

“The plan is to launch at least one vaccine every quarter beginning with Covishield, which we licensed from AstraZeneca, likely by start of 2021… We are already making 20-30 million doses and can increase the production to 70-80 million a month. Currently, we are consciously producing less considering the shelf life of the vaccine,” Adar Poonawalla told BusinessToday.in on Thursday.

It reported that the second anti-coronavirus disease vaccine from Serum Institute Life Sciences (SILS), a new company floated by SII, is likely to be Covovax, which is a spike protein vaccine being developed in association with biotech firm Novovax.

Novovax has an arrangement with SII to produce one billion doses of the vaccine in 2021. The BusinessToday.in report said that the Phase 1 clinical trial of Covovax began in May 2020 in Australia and it is currently into the second phase of development. A phase-3 clinical trial with up to 30,000 subjects is expected to begin by end of 2020, it added.

 

Adar Poonawala said the new manufacturing facility SILS is coming up near the SII facility in Pune in Maharashtra state, and will take two years for completion. Poonawalla also said, according to BusinessToday.in, that SILS will outsource the capacity of SII until then.

Poonawalla added that the privately-held company has already invested 70% of the INR 30-billion capex required in land, buildings, plants, raw materials, and other related infrastructure.

SII will postpone its earlier expansion plans to develop a few new vaccines for the US and European markets. “Once completed, between SII and SILS, we will have a capacity to manufacture over 2.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, provided there is demand and requirement,” the report quoted Poonawalla as saying.

India’s infection tally went up to 7.76 million with 54,366 new cases of the coronavirus disease and 690 related deaths, according to the Union health ministry.

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PSC action could cripple health services, warns GMOA Secretary

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There were vacancies for 89 specialist doctors in government teaching hospitals due to certain actions taken by the Public Service Commission (PSC), the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said yesterday.

GMOA secretary Dr. Senal Fernando yesterday told The Island those vacancies had the potential to cripple the state health service, as the service was stressed due to COVID-19.

Dr. Fernando said: “Specialist doctors are appointed and transfered according to procedures established by the Health Service Minute. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the transfers and the PSC should oversee the transfering process to ensure that they are made in a proper manner.”

“The PSC has ordered the appointment of a committee to look into the matter but there is no mention of such a committee in the Health Service Minute. Instead of following the process, the PSC has tried to intervene in the process and 89 posts remain vacant during the time of COVID-19,” he said.

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Hizbullah denies links with Zahran

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But signed agreement for Zahran’s help in 2015 GE

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Former Governor of the Eastern Province, M. L. A. M. Hizbullah on Monday night told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing Easter Sunday attacks, that he had not had any links to National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim. The NTJ members had assaulted his supporters at Kattankudy in March 2017, he said.

Hizbullah said so when the Commissioners asked him about his links with Zahran.

Hizbullah was also asked about billions of rupees he had received from foreign organisations since 2016. Earlier in the day, it was revealed that close to Rs. 4 billion had been deposited by foreign individuals and institutions in two accounts Hizbullah operated at the Bank of Ceylon Colpetty Branch from 2016 to 2019.

The witness said the Sri Lanka Hira Foundation, a social service institution run by him, had received money from foreign countries after March 2016.

“Ali Abdullah al-Juffali of Saudi Arabia gave Rs. 308 million and Siddique and Diana Osmond of London gave Rs. 5.5 million,” he said.

Hizbullah added that he knew al-Juffali and some other Saudi philanthropists. Al Juffali family was one of the richest Saudis with an estimated worth USD 19.8 billion, he said.

Then, a video of a discussion Zahran had with Sibli Farooq of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was played at the PCoI.

The video showed Zahran and Farooq talking about a sum of one million riyals that Hizbullah had allegedly received from Saudi Arabia. In the video, Zahran says that he had no problem with Hizbullah receiving money from Saudi Arabia.

In response, Hizbullah said that by the 2015 Presidential election, Farooq and Zahran had been against him. A member of the Commission then asked why Hizbullah had entered into an agreement with Zahran during an election if he had acted against him.

Hizbullah said Zahran had told, on social media, that he would support politicians who agreed to some of his proposals.” All the parties joined him. I also went along,” he said. Earlier, it was revealed that representatives for the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG) had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for the support of NTJ in 2015.

Hizbullah was also questioned on the Aliyar clash between NTJ and Sunnath Wal Jamaat, a group that supported Hizbullah, on 10 March, 2017.

“Did you ask Zahran to surrender to the court through his mother?” a member of the Commission questioned.

“I made no such comment. I do not know if anyone in my party did so,” he said.

The Commissioners also asked Hizbullah about growing date palms in the Kattankudy area and placing Arabic billboards.

The witness replied that he had grown date palms because of the high temperatures in the area. Nameplates with Arabic letters had been put up to attract Arabic students as they were largely visiting the area, he said.

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CA annuls summons issued on President

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The Court of Appeal yesterday annulled the summons issued on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the disappearance of two persons in Jaffna in 2011.

Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganathan went missing in 2011. Last year, Jaffna Magistrate’s Court issued summons on Rajapaksa over a habeas corpus petition filed by the relatives of the two missing activists. They had named Rajapaksa one of the respondents since he was the Defence Secretary at the time of the disappearances.

Earlier, Rajapaksa had submitted a writ application stating that he found it difficult to appear before the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court due to security reasons. The Court of Appeal issued an injunction preventing Rajapaksa being summoned by the Magistrate.

President of the Court of Appeal A. H. M. D. Nawaz, declaring their decision, said that a Magistrate’s Court could only issue summons over a specific reason. However the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court had issued the summons based on a motion of a lawyer and that there was no legal basis for the summons. Thus, the Court of Appeal issued a writ notification declaring the summons issued by the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court void.

 

 

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