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EU Turns to BioNTech/Pfizer After Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Suspension

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The EU is turning more heavily to BioNTech/Pfizer to make up for suspended Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses and for longer-term needs to fight the mutating coronavirus, its chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

BioNTech/Pfizer is bringing forward delivery of 50 million doses to the second quarter, starting this month, to help make up for the shortfall of the J&J jabs that were meant to start rolling out, she said in a televised statement.

The European Union is also negotiating with BioNTech/Pfizer for 1.8 billion doses of a second-generation of its mRNA vaccine to combat variants, to be delivered in 2022 and 2023, she said.

“As we can see, with the announcement by Johnson & Johnson yesterday, there are still many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedules of vaccines,” she said, referring to the company’s decision to suspend European deliveries while rare blood clot cases possibly linked to its shot are investigated in the United States.

“It is therefore important to act swiftly, anticipate and adjust whenever it is possible,” she said, announcing the second-quarter delivery of 50 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses originally scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

Von der Leyen said that would bring the total number of BioNTech/Pfizer doses for April, May and June to 250 million — accounting for more than half of all jabs to be given in this quarter.

“I think this will substantially help consolidate the rollout of our vaccination campaigns,” she said, noting that there have already been 100 million doses given in the bloc to date, with 27 million people fully vaccinated.

The European Union had a sluggish first-quarter rollout mainly because of vaccine supply constraints, especially by AstraZeneca which delivered less than a quarter of the 120 million doses it had promised.

Virus variants

Question marks are now above the adenovirus-type vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in the wake of suspected blood clots.

While the European Medicines Agency has authorised AstraZeneca for all adults, many EU countries have taken the precaution of limiting its use to only older segments of the population.

Von der Leyen made clear that BioNTech/Pfizer was increasingly the go-to supplier for the bloc, with no health problems so far associated with its mRNA vaccine which has proven to be highly effective against the main strains of the coronavirus present in the EU.

However there are concerns about emerging virus variants that could dampen the effect of current vaccines.

Von der Leyen said to address that, “at a certain point in time, we might need booster jabs to reinforce and prolong immunity” with vaccines that are effective against mutations.

“We need to focus now on technologies that have proven their worth: mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point. And based on all this, we are now entering into negotiations with BioNTech/Pfizer for a third contract,” she said.

That would foresee the delivery of 1.8 billion second-generation BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over next year and 2023.

“It will entail not only the production of vaccines, but also the essential components. All of that will be based in the European Union,” von der Leyen said, indirectly referencing concerns that had arisen about supplies of AstraZeneca from Britain or Johnson & Johnson doses that were sent via the US for packaging.

The EU has made the production of vaccines on its territory — already the main vaccine manufacturing powerhouse in the world alongside the US — a condition of its forthcoming contracts.

“Other contracts with other companies may follow,” von der Leyen said.

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Karnataka Temporarily Suspends Vaccination For 18-44 Age Group, Will Prioritise Second Dose

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Owing to the short supply of Covid vaccines, Karnataka on Wednesday decided to ‘temporarily suspend’ vaccination drive for those aged between 18 to 44 years.

In a series of tweets, the Karnataka Health department said that the state government has decided that the vaccine procured directly by the state government for vaccination of persons between 18 and 44 years too will be utilised for vaccination of beneficiaries who are due for the second dose.

“Therefore, all vaccines available with the state government i.e. supplied by union government and procured directly by state will be utilized for vaccination of beneficiaries due for second dose,” the Karnataka health department tweet explained.

The Health department added that vaccination drives for the 18 to 44 age group, including those who have already booked appointments will be temporarily suspended from May 14 till further orders.

According to the health department, the state government on May 7 had decided to utilise the complete supply of vaccines provided by the union government for vaccination of persons above 45 years, for vaccinating beneficiaries who were due for second dose.

“But under the changed circumstances and severe shortage of vaccine, the vaccine procured directly by the state government for vaccination of persons between 18 to 44 years too will be utilised for vaccination of beneficiaries who are due for second dose,” a senior health department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The health department added that this order will be applicable for Covid vaccination at all state-run Covid vaccination centres in the state.

As of now, only two vaccines manufactured by Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII) and Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech are allowed in India for mass inoculation programme, but these companies are struggling to meet the country’s overwhelming demand for vaccines amid the ferocious second wave that has seen India’s Covid burden go up manifold.

Karnataka symbolically launched anti-Covid vaccination drive on May 1 but ever since it has failed to take off due to short supply of vaccines.

Karnataka Health minister, K. Sudhkar was first to state on April 30 that it was better to put off the launch of the drive on May 1 as the state had not received required stock and this was even endorsed by Chief Minister, B.S. Yediyurappa on that day. But, Yediyurappa the next day launched the vaccination drive symbolically on May 1.

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Check Out Tithi, Shubh Muhurat, Rahu Kaal and Other Details For Thursday

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(Representative pic: Shutterstock)

(Representative pic: Shutterstock)

Panchang: The day Guruvara is dedicated to Lord Brihaspati who is known as the priest of Gods

May 13 will mark the Shukla Paksha Dwitiya Tithi of Hindi month Vaishakha in Vikram Samvat 2078 and the day is Guruvara (Thursday). The Dwitiya tithi will prevail up to the full night on May 13. The day Guruvara is dedicated to Lord Brihaspati who is known as the priest of gods. Devotees observe fast and worship Lord Brihaspati by offering yellow flowers, sandals, clothes, jaggery and gram pulse. He is also believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Know about the tithi, timings, Nakshatra, and other details for May 13.

Sunrise and Sunset time for May 13:

Sunrise time – 05:32 am

Sunset time – 07.04 pm

Moonrise time – 06.26 am

Moonset time – 08.33 pm

Tithi, Nakshatra, and Rashi Details for May 13:

Dwitiya Tithi will prevail up to a full night on May 13. The Nakshatra will be Rohini up to the full night. Sun will remain in Mesha Rashi while Moon will transition to Vrishabha Rashi.

Shubh Muhurats on May 13:

The most auspicious muhurat of the day i.e, Abhijit Muhurat will prevail between 11:51 am and12:45 pm on May 13. This time period is believed to be one of the most auspicious muhurat to perform any puja or to start any work. There are some other shubh muhurats which also prevail for a certain period of time almost every day. These are Vijaya muhurat andGodhuli muhurat which will take place between 02:33 pm and03:27 pm, 06:50 pm and 07:14 pm, respectively. There will be no Amrit Kalam for today.

Inauspicious timings for May 13:

The most inauspicious muhurat Rahu Kalam will prevail between 1.59 pm and3.41 pm on May 13. It is said that any auspicious work during this time is interfered with by planet Rahu. Other inauspicious muhurat like Gulikai Kalam and Varjyam will last from 08:55 am to 10:36 am and 08:44 pm to 10:32 pm.

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Yogi Adityanath Takes Cognisance of Bodies Dumped in Ganga; UP-Bihar Govts Blame Each Other

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Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday took cognisance of bodies found floating in the Ganga in Ballia district and said the last rites should be done according to the deceased’s religious beliefs. He also noted that the dumping of bodies in water causes pollution.

At least 45 bodies were seen floating in floating near the Ujiyar, Kulhadia and Bharauli ghats in the Narahi area on Tuesday evening. Late on Tuesday night, seven more bodies were found, taking the total count of bodies to 52, an official said. District officials have begun performing the last to avoid Covid-19 contagion. The dumping of bodies also increases the risk of spreading infections in communities inhabiting the banks of rivers, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Bihar government on Tuesday said altogether 71 bodies have been fished out from the Ganges in Buxar district and were later cremated as per protocols. Some samples were, however, collected for DNA testing.

Bihar Additional chief secretary (home) Chaitanya Prasad said that the bodies in Buxar had flown downstream from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. Speaking to News18, he said, “All these dead bodies were being dumped in Ganga from Uttar Pradesh, which flowed and stopped at Chausa and Mahavir Ghat in Buxar (Bihar border). An investigation has been launched on the orders of the Bihar government regarding the issue.”

Officials of both UP and Bihar have discussed the issue with their counterparts, including the Chief Secretaries, Additional Chief Secretaries, DGPs and District Magistrates, sources said.

Bihar authorities have raised strong objections to the dumping of bodies amid Covid-19 pandemic concerns. However, both the states have agreed to implement strict Covid-19 protocol in bordering districts. As per reports, a huge net has also been put up in the Ganges near Raniganj, Buxar.

A video of bodies found buried in shallow pits near the banks of the Ganga had also gone viral. The viral video showed dogs nibbling on the corpses.

The Allahabad High Court had earlier expressed concern over the under-reporting of Covid-19 deaths and has asked the state to record the deaths of those who died with Covid symptoms even if their tests could not be done.

Uttar Pradesh reported 329 more Covid-19 deaths and 18,125 fresh cases in the last 24 hours.

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