Some Good News on the Vaccine Front but Challenges Remain

THE scientific community has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in a way that would have been thought impossible earlier. Within only 12 months, we are now likely to have a set of vaccines for Covid-19. This is an astounding achievement, as the fastest vaccine development till date was mumps which took nearly four years. Equally important is that the first four vaccine candidate frontrunners – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya – have all shown efficacy well-beyond the target of 50 per cent success rate set by the regulatory agencies.

Delhi-NCR’s Winter Pollution Woes

HERE we are once again in the midst of the seemingly inevitable problem of air pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring National Capital Region. The Air Quality Index (AQI) over the past fortnight shot up to “very poor” and even reached the “severe” category for a few days around Diwali. The situation was exacerbated, as usual, by seasonal pollution-generating activities and seasonal as well as other weather conditions.

Good News on Vaccines but What About its Delivery?

A COVID-19 vaccine is back in the news with the recent Pfizer's press release claiming 90 per cent efficacy from the very early figures in the Phase 3 trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. BioNTech is the German company that Trump had attempted to buy, leading to a furore in Germany. Pfizer, the US pharma giant, is now its partner, with US big capital successfully wooing the German company where Trump's crude tactics had failed. The figures are from a Pfizer press release, so the scientific community has little to analyse independently Pfizer's claims.

India Signs BECA: Sealing the US-India Military Alliance

INDIA finally signed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geo-spatial Cooperation) accord with the US during the 2+2 Meeting between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in New Delhi on October 27, 2020.  BECA is the fourth of the so-called foundational defence agreements between India and the US. The US has variations of these four agreements with its NATO and other allies or close international partners, as well as with many countries to which it sells military hardware.

DST’s Super Model: Or How Not to Model an Epidemic

THE Department of Science and Technology has sponsored a model, described as a “Super Model” that – according to the governmental hype –claims India’s lockdown was highly successful and we perhaps have reached herd immunity. The media has widely reported that according to the DST Super Model, the lockdown saved nearly two million lives, and by February 2021, even without a vaccine the epidemic in India will be over.

The 2020 Nobel in Physics and the Monster of a Black Hole in Our Galaxy

THE Nobel Prize in physics this year has been shared by Roger Penrose, the mathematical physicist, for his work on the theoretical basis of black holes, and Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez, two astronomers, who led independent teams, for verifying the existence of such a black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.  Penrose showed that the consequence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the formation of black holes, not simply of collapsing stars, but also in certain dense regions of space.  Such black holes capture everything: nothing can

Defence Offsets: CAG Review and Govt’s Latest Changes

VIRTUALLY on the last day of the budget session of parliament while it was in turmoil, the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) tabled its Report No.20 of 2019, which is a review of the defence offsets policy all the way from its inception in 2005 till the present time. While a summary statement was released by CAG to the press, the detailed report has unfortunately not been posted on either the CAG website or on the websites of either house, restricting access of the public to this important report and the information contained in it.

Even with Vaccines, It is a Long and Rocky Road to Immunity

AS the pandemic marches through the world, a number of countries seemed to have given up the fight against Covid-19, and are now waiting for a vaccine to stop the pandemic. With cases exceeding 32 million, and more than a million dead, the world economy has taken a bigger hit than at any other time in the last century.

Countries like the US and India are now showing the highest numbers in terms of total and new cases. They are not even talking about how to stop the pandemic, and are only focussing on re-opening; or as India calls it, ‘unlockdown’.

Harsh Vardhan Claims Empty Victories as India Becomes Epicentre of Covid-19 Pandemic

SPEAKING in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on September 15-16, Dr Harsh Vardhan, union health minister made a number of self-congratulatory claims regarding the “success” of the government’s lockdown and its Covid-19 policies. What was striking about his claims is its ostrich-like refusal to address the current reality of surging Covid-19 cases. He completely ducked the question why after a “successful” lockdown, India has currently the highest number of daily new cases, and is on course by October to overtake the US, the worst performing country in the world.