NCOC confirms presence of different variants in Pakistan

Published July 7, 2021
An overseas Pakistani worker who wants to fly to the Middle East receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination center in Peshawar. — AFP
An overseas Pakistani worker who wants to fly to the Middle East receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination center in Peshawar. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: As many as two million more doses of Sino­vac vaccine reached Pakistan from China on Tuesday.

On the other hand, the Natio­nal Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) confirmed presence of different variants of coronavirus, including the delta (Indian), beta (South African) and alpha (UK) variants, in Pakistan and detection of their cases in May and June.

According to a study conducted by World Health Organi­sation (WHO) in 28 countries, drugs that block the effects of interleukin-6 reduce the risk of death by Covid-19 and the need for mechanical ventilation.

Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a protein produced by various cells which helps regulate immune responses.

According to the NCOC, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has been monitoring the presence of different variants of coronavirus in Pakistan. This is done via whole-genome sequen­cing of Covid-19 patients’ samples.

2m more doses of vaccine arrive from China

“Samples collected in late May and the first half of June 2021 have shown the presence of different variants of concern, including the delta, beta and alpha variants. Of note, the data has been shared with the Field Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Division of NIH for response activities such as quarantine and contact tracing, and with other relevant national stakeholders,” it said.

The NCOC data showed that 25 deaths and 830 new cases were reported in a single day. The number of active cases was 33,390 and 2,223 patients were admitted to hospitals as of July 6.

The number of cases, which remained over 1,000 for five consecutive days, dropped to three digits i.e. 830. However, according to an official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) sudden increase or decrease in the number of cases can be reported in a single day and that is why weekly data is considered credible.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Faisal Sultan has warned that indications are showing that the situation has started worsening.

“Covid data from last week show small but definitive uptick in cases, percentage positivity and other parameters. Masks, avoidance of large crowds and continued vaccination remain crucial tools in this work,” he tweeted.

Interleukin-6

Interleukin-6 antagonists improve outcomes in hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Findings from a study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association have prompted new WHO recommendations to use interleukin-6 antagonists in patients with severe or critical Covid-19 along with corticosteroids.

According to a statement of the WHO, new analysis of 27 randomised trials involving about 11,000 patients found that treating hospitalised Covid-19 patients with drugs that block the effects of interleukin-6 (the interleukin-6 antagonists tocilizumab and sarilumab) reduces the risk of death by Covid-19 and the need for mechanical ventilation.

The study, which was coordinated in 28 countries by the WHO in partnership with King’s College London, University of Bristol, University College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, found that interleukin-6 antagonists were most effective when administered with corticosteroids. In hospitalised patients, administering one of these drugs in addition to corticosteroids reduces the risk of death by 17 per cent, compared to the use of corticosteroids alone. In patients not on mechanical ventilation, the need for mechanical ventilation and risk of death is reduced by 21pc, compared to the use of corticosteroids alone.

This analysis included information on 10,930 patients, of whom 6,449 were randomly assigned to receive interleukin-6 antagonists and 4,481 to receive usual care or placebo.

Results showed that the risk of dying within 28 days is lower in patients receiving interleukin-6 antagonists. In this group, the risk of death is 22pc compared with an assumed risk of 25pc in those receiving only usual care.

Commenting on the results of the analysis Dr Janet Diaz, Lead for Clinical Management, WHO Health Emergencies, said: “Bringing together the results of trials conducted around the world is one of the best ways to find treatments that will help more people survive Covid-19. We have updated our clinical care treatment guidance to reflect this latest development. While science has delivered, we must now turn our attention to access. Given the extent of global vaccine inequity, people in the lowest income countries will be the ones most at risk of severe and critical Covid-19. Those are the people these drugs need to reach.”

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2021

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