Splainer

Thursday, September 17 2020


Dive In

The farmers who grow vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, onions and potatoes that are also top priority for us. Take T from tomato, O from Onion and P from Potato, you get TOP. Farmers are TOP priority for us.

That’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to reassure farmers at a rally in Bangalore—ahead of the state elections to be held later this year. Point to note: Farmers in Maharashtra are furious at the government for banning the export of onions in order to curb rising prices. An agricultural economist says, “Onion export ban reflects the typical urban consumer bias in the minds of our bureaucrats and policymakers. This is an anti-farmer policy. How can a prime minister that wants to double farmers income agree to such a policy?” So, only a TP priority then? Illustration: Parth Savla

Big Story

Sputnik lands in India

The TLDR: The Russians just cut a deal to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine nicknamed Sputnik V. Its India partner will also conduct Phase 3 trials of the vaccine in the country. The problem: the vaccine already has a bad rep. And the prospect of thousands of Indians taking this particular jab isn’t exactly comforting.

 

First, tell me about the deal

It was struck between The Russia Direct Investment Fund—which is funding the vaccine—and Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. Dr Reddy’s will conduct phase three trials in India with a few thousand participants—and distribute 100 million vaccines. According to RDIF: “They are meant for population-wide general use—a mass vaccination campaign.”

 

All this, of course, requires government approval—both for the trials and for the vaccination campaign. 

 

Point to note: This is the second major international deal to test and supply a vaccine in India. The first is the Oxford vaccine partnership between Serum Institute of India and AstraZeneca

Ok, what about this vaccine?

Who: The vaccine is being developed by the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology in partnership with the Russian Defence Ministry—and it is funded by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

 

What: It is a two-part vaccine—an initial jab and then a booster shot. Here’s how it works:

  • The vaccine genetically modifies two strains of the common cold virus—adenovirus 5 and adenovirus 26. 
  • The aim: engineer these weakened cold viruses to produce the ‘spike protein’ of the coronavirus. 
  • Translation: the coronavirus is covered with spikes that allow it to penetrate human cells. These viruses will produce the genetic material associated with those spikes, but not the actual coronavirus.
  • When these viruses enter the body, it produces antibodies and protective T cells—which will help protect a person when exposed to the actual virus. 

 

Doesn’t sound that controversial…

Yes, Sputnik isn’t that different from other vaccine candidates. The Oxford vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus. China-based CanSino’s version is based on adenovirus 5, while Johnson & Johnson uses adenovirus 26.

 

But the testing process adopted by Russia—and the data from initial trials—have raised big red flags.

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Celebs ‘freeze’ out Facebook
  • Wildfires pose a new and serious Covid threat
  • Flipkart plans an IPO
  • Delhi police files a chargesheet
  • A virtual Ram Lila celebration in Ayodhya

 

Reading Habit

  • A list of delightful literary reads

 

Smart and Curious

  • Nana-ji’s sleeveless sweater is currently the height of fashion
  • Taco Bell is rolling out a custom-made wine ‘Jalapeño Noir’
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