Forced Consent and no Transparency Can Create a Backlash Against Vaccines

THE drug regulator's hurried emergency clearance to Bharat Bio-tech's Covaxin in a clinical trial mode has been followed by the government making it integral to its mass vaccination drive. It has bought 1.1 crore doses of Serum Institute-Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and another 55 lakh from Bharat Biotech. According to the government, neither states nor individuals will have a choice with regards to vaccines. Besides, those vaccinated with Covaxin, are being "asked" to sign a consent form that they have "voluntarily" agreed to participate in a Covaxin clinical trial.

The Ugly Truth Behind WhatsApp's Data Privacy

WHATSAPP, a company owned by Facebook since 2014, has issued a new privacy policy changing its data-sharing rules, which will come into effect by February 8, 2021. In this new policy, WhatsApp has declared that it will share data with Facebook, its parent company, about users' chats, connections, location and device information, transactions and payments. It will also share data of our interactions with other businesses that use Facebook as a platform. The public outcry over the new privacy policy has prompted an exodus to much safer alternatives like Signal.

Pseudo-Nationalism Trumps Science in Vaccine Clearance

IT is disturbing the way the Indian government and the regulatory authorities have handled the emergency use for vaccines for Covid-19. It started with the emergency use being granted to Oxford-AstraZeneca-Serum Institute's (Oxford-SII) Covidshield vaccine, and the furore in the BJP's social media-troll army for not granting similar approval for the indigenous National Institute of Virology-ICMR-Bharat Biotech's (NIV-BB) Covaxin, framing it as an angrezi versus Indian vaccine issue.

Elsevier and Wiley's War on Science and Research

THREE journal publishers have filed a case in Delhi High Court for blocking Sci-Hub and Libgen in India. These two websites provide free downloads of research publications and books to research scholars and students. This is not an attack on pirate sites, as the publishers claim but a war against students and researchers in India, who do not have access to these high-priced journals.

The Rs 100,000 crore Burden on Farmers in the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020

IN this bitter winter cold, lakhs of farmers have been protesting at the Delhi border against the three Farm Acts. Along with the Farm Acts, farmers are also demanding the rollback of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020. This Bill if passed, is likely to add Rs100,000 crore of additional burden on the farmers and increase their costs of irrigation by 500 per cent.

Climate Cloud and Thin Silver lining: Virtual Climate Ambition Summit

A VIRTUAL Climate Ambition Summit attended by around 70 government leaders was held on December 12, 2020 on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement (PA). This Summit, organised by the UN, France and the UK, was expected to push governments to declare deeper emission cuts than their commitments under PA in the lead up to the next Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow next December.

Vaccine Rollout Battle: First Past the Post May Win Major Market Share

SIX vaccines for Covid-19 have either released, or likely to release within a few weeks of their figures of vaccine efficacy, or how effective their vaccines are. Those who get the initial green signal from the regulators to roll out the vaccine will get a huge market advantage. That is why there is intense media focus on the US and the UK approval processes of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. In India, three vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Serum Institute for the Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Bharat Biotech have also applied for emergency use.

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.