The Case for a New Avenger

S.H.I.E.L.D. might have missed assembling team members from India, but it is never too late to correct an oversight. Imagine our larger-than-life superhero, Rajinikanth, partnering with other Avengers in a combined mission to save the planet from dangerous predators with bad intentions. Some aliens, some familiar ones! Yes, India is far from America, and the distance seems to have increased during the pandemic, but Rajinikanth could give some worthy company to Iron Man and perhaps teach him a trick or two, too, through holographic interfaces and augmented reality. Who knows, he could also kill all the mutants of Coronaviruses in this quest!

I wish to present some facts now to give you a background of my strategic human resource and leadership plan for S.H.I.E.L.D. India has one of the largest numbers of gig workers in the world. As per a March 2021 report by consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the gig economy in India is expected to soar to 90 million in approximately a decade from now. Choose any vocation here and you will be spoilt for choices. Almost everyone is an expert on politics, economics, socio-cultural issues, fashion, sports, career, marriage, children, nature, animals, traffic, the dos, and don’ts … the list is endless. People can even advice others on how they should lead their lives. It’s affection, silly!

War for talent? Clearly, recruiters have not been able to explore the depth of this vast pool. To reiterate, India is a land bubbling with high potentials. Now let us go back to the topic of superpowers. There is plan B too. Rajinikanth could have a serious competition in a plain-looking community here. S.H.I.E.L.D. could consider appointing some members from this fraternity too.

You are rolling your eyes? Why? Hear me out. Presenting to you the case of beholders of the mighty pen (over a sword or a gun), and the upholders of fine speech. Their words hit no less than the missiles unleashed by Israel over the Gaza strip. Let me walk you through the innate gifts of a less publicized community with an immensely amoeba-like (plasma membrane) flexibility.

The teachers.

The extremely sturdy ones can stand the whole day, operate (teach) without a table and a chair, or, the basic infrastructure, and sometimes work even at low or no salaries for months. The strengths, struggles and coping mechanism of the privileged ones out of this lot are embedded in different realms. More on that, later! You will be astonished to learn how many hats teachers can don at the same time. They juggle between being a mentor, coach, counsellor, Devil’s advocate, friend, philosopher, or guide. Interestingly, even their DNA personifies versatility. Over the years, the mutations in their genetic material have helped them learn how to make milestones of the stones thrown at them by students unhappy with their marks, and parents unhappy with the teachers for giving those marks! Talk about heightened senses, their eyes can easily observe and sense the intention behind each greeting, smile and calls to the office. They are like Sharma ji ka beta/beti’, always expected to excel at everything and set an ideal example for the others to emulate.

Here, I would take a detour and ask you to recall the violinists who continued to play music for as long as they were alive, just to calm the passengers on the sinking Titanic ship. On similar lines, teachers continued to teach while the pandemic unleashed havoc around the world. The unlearning of years of classroom teaching was replaced by the immediate need to adopt new technological tools and re-learn the art of virtual teaching. The new and changed landscape was no less than the one post Thanos snapping his finger.

Aren’t convinced yet? Go to the polling booths and follow the polio immunization drives, you will know what I mean.

Now the final hook. Except for some teachers working with elite institutions, the rest won’t even charge much for their services. You can simply smile, appreciate their work, show some respect, and boy, see how they melt! Just watch how it lights up their faces. They are so motivated, especially on September 5 every year in India, that even Abraham Maslow bows to them from time to time from his grave. Had told you about their genetic sequencing earlier, remember? I do hope I have presented their (our) case well, S.H.I.E.L.D. Hopefully, you will have a relook at your current team now.

On a sidenote, can I be a contender too? Just saying. I can take it up as a gig assignment during the semester breaks. Imagine the newest Avenger on the block and that too a female from India! It will further boost the diversity and inclusion factors for you. If you can give equitable salary and perks, you could even find yourself on the pages of Harvard cases.

You might want to provide supplements of Vitamin T(eacher) to your team if Rajinikanth’s diary of appointments is full. Professor Hulk would not mind some more erudite company. In return, I vow to start quoting your example in my classes as a great employer brand with an excellent employee value proposition. Who knows, I might even write a research article. Told you, pen and words are the weapons here. Think about it. What say? Are you game?

P.S. I have recently bought a telescope to keep an eye on the stars and planets too. Taking my possible future role tad too seriously, eh?

7 important tips to manage aggression in children

Manage child aggression: To develop a sound value system, tell them stories. For very small children, stories should be pleasant, free of fighting and violence, about animals and nature, sharing and caring. When they are five or six, it is okay to introduce stories with good people and ‘bad’ people.

child, who wanted to be perceived as the strongest of all, would speak loudly, look angry and hit everyone to prove his strength. When his grandfather came to visit, he behaved in the same way with him. However, his grandpa was never agitated and just smiled at his actions. The child was bewildered as he was only used to getting yelled at for what he did. The more he was yelled at, the stronger he would become, is what he thought!

Grandpa shares the Buddha story

The grandfather asked him if he would like to hear a story and the boy agreed. “Once upon a time, there was an enlightened master called Buddha. He travelled across the country teaching people how to be peaceful. Once while he was going through a forest, a tribesman called Angulimala came to him. He was a frightening man. He wore a garland of fingers of people whom he had sacrificed so he would be the strongest and feared the most. He wanted to have Buddha’s finger as the hundredth and complete his sacrificing ritual. Buddha smiled at him and said, “I am happy to be of use to you”. There was no trace of fear in him. Nobody had ever smiled at Angulimala. No one had ever spoken to him so kindly. The very presence of Buddha did something to him. Angulimala felt very weak for the first time in his life. He felt like a feather in front of a mountain. He realised that real strength is in having unshakable calmness, peace, and in compassion. He fell at Buddha’s feet. He was changed completely.” The child listened to every word from his grandpa with rapt attention.

Look out for the media children are exposed to

When you feel helpless or weak, the need to assert your strength comes out as violence. Where do children get the idea of violence? They see their parents, neighbours, friends, so many programmes on TV or videos on the mobile phone — all this exposure leaves impressions and has a strong impact on the minds of children, more than we know. They are sensitive even to suppressed violence. If you are angry inside but still act as if everything is okay, children will know it.

Handling aggression

Children get angry or show aggression for seemingly very silly reasons. But the real reason is something else, a sense of insecurity that has crept in somehow. That is why in olden days, parents would never show anger in front of a child. They would not even argue or use harsh words. Public display of anger was considered a weakness. Today, anger and aggression comes up at the drop of a hat. Any minor difference of opinion is enough to prompt the arrows to fly. We don’t know how to draw a line between expressing a difference of opinion and displaying aggression. If your child is aggressive, look into your own lifestyle. What are you doing? Are you yelling at your housekeeper or at your pet? Are you yelling at your own spouse? Or any one for that matter in front of the child? Are you sad? What is your reaction? And it does not matter that out of the 365 days, you have acted in aggression may be only a couple of times. Those few days are equally important for the child. This is why we need to meditate and practice pranayama or deep breathing techniques. Heyum Dukham Anagatam — stopping the misery before it comes — that is the benefit of yoga, because in life prevention is better than cure.

Engaging children in meaningful activities

The other important thing is to engage them in meaningful activities, and sports that allow them to channel their energy constructively. Just playing video games or watching TV with no physical activity only increases restlessness and makes them prone to aggression. You will notice that the day your child has more screen time, the more difficult he or she becomes to handle. Encourage them to go out and play, engage with real people, run and fill their lungs with some fresh air. In the olden days, movies were classified as suitable for watching only under parental guidance. Parents would control what a child can see. Today, it is a common occurrence that the elders are all engrossed in watching soaps on TV and are oblivious to the child who is also watching and taking in all the exaggerated emotions that are projected. It is very important to be sensitive about what their tender senses are exposed to. They should not be bombarded with heavy impressions.

What kind of stories are we telling our children?

To develop a sound value system, tell them stories. For very small children, perhaps around three or four, stories should be pleasant, free of fighting and violence, about animals and nature, sharing and caring. When they are five or six it is okay to introduce stories with good people and ‘bad’ people. Every culture has its stories of heroes who protected the innocent and fought villains who were up to no good. Through these stories they understand that the purpose of strength is to protect and not to hurt. They learn that the hero, the stronger one, is calm and collected.

While it is important to reprimand anger, it is equally important to recognise when they are gentle and appreciate them. When I was a child and would sometimes get angry, my grandmother would ask me to go to a certain corner of the house and leave my anger there. She would say that the angel in that corner would take the anger from me and go far, far away. I would believe her, go stand there and in a minute, come back smiling! Schools today don’t teach children how to deal with negative emotions. This is an important aspect of moulding the character of the child. Teachers should be strict about encouraging the right attitude in children. They should recognise the strength of a child who is able to walk away from a fight and not just react and hit back. They should reward and give attention to calmness in a child. Many times, an aggressive attitude in a child comes out from simply wanting attention. So, you can teach them by ignoring their sulking or shouting, and praising them and giving extra attention when they are well-mannered. And parents should give teachers the space to discipline the child if necessary. It is okay if your child has been naughty and the teacher has disciplined him or her. Parents must encourage reverence towards the teacher. If they say, “Who is he or she to tell my child what to do!” the child will not listen or respect the teacher anymore. When this happens, learning stops.

Food is important

The food that we give to our children also has a role to play. Too many sweets, fried food (like chips) and oily food increase restlessness in a child. Also, their food must be freshly cooked as far as possible and not packaged items kept in cold storage. Encourage them to enjoy fruits as much as chips; perhaps one chip-one fruit can be the deal! Where possible, it is advisable to avoid food products made from genetically modified grains and vegetables. The food has a direct impact on the mind and when consumed over a period of time, has a definite impact on the nature or attitude of the child.

Above all this, as parents, it is important to spend quality time doing ‘nothing’ with your child. Just sitting with them without looking at our mobile phones, giving complete attention to what they have to say, just being with them 100 per cent gives a great sense of security to the child. An insecure child is more likely to succumb to aggression than one who feels secure and attended to.

Teach children that the one who smiles come-what-may is stronger.

Show them when to stand up for what is right, and when to walk away from a fight.

As much as you can, protect their innocence.

As much as you can, give them pride in non-violence.

Agony of covid19

COVID has not only affected us by entering our bodies but the agony of Losing family members, jobs, income, a completely disrupted education system, and constant fear of what next have severely damaged the peace of people. Even doctors, nurses are under the agony of constant threat and tremendous work pressure. Oxygen plants are being constructed and vaccines are being produced, however, what the mind has been going through cannot be cured by steroids or vaccines.

These are some of the thoughts that haunt many of us who are infected or have lost people close to us due to COVID. Whenever we surf the internet through information pieces or even when we watch the news, we see they offer COVID helpline numbers, hospital details, and other valuable information on how to tackle COVID. In the same way, we can have a COVID Mental Health support helpline, wherein people can interact with therapists or more precisely connect to somebody who can listen and feel empathetically.

At this point advice like yoga, meditation, or “keep yourself engaged” does not work. There has to be sharing, there has to be handholding throughout the process of recovery. To heal completely from COVID or COVID implications the mind needs to be healed as well and we all have to pay attention to this

India’s Vaccine Shortage

India’s Vaccine Shortage

India’s Prime Minister announced ‘Teeka Utsav’ to promote covid-vaccination as well as to counter the second wave of infection. But on the contrary vaccinations have been declining afterwards.

Experts believe that herd immunity stage needs to be achieved to counter the spread of any infection i.e., more than 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated. According to some studies, it can take almost 16 months to vaccinate 70 per cent of India’s population with first dose and almost 9 years to vaccinate them with both first and second doses.

A popular science journal and the Indian Medical Association itself has criticized India’s vaccination program. India, popular as ‘Vaccine factory of the world’ has been running short of vaccine supply which ultimately led to a situation where many Indian states are unable to achieve their vaccination targets. Odisha had to shut 60 per cent of it’s vaccination centers due to shortage of vaccines in the month of May.

As people are unable to find vaccines at their nearest centers, they are going to other cities to get vaccinated. For example some people residing at Gurgaon had to go to Manesar whereas some Delhites are going to Rohtak and residents of Rohtak are visiting villages to get vaccinated. Thus villagers have complained of not having enough vaccines left for the residents.


Causes

The first reason of the shortage is the insufficient capacity of the manufacturers. According to the targets of the central government of India, almost 10 crore doses of vaccines need to be manufactured every month but the current capacity of the manufacturing companies combined together lies at 7.5 crores which would increase to 11 crores by July. Another fact to be kept in mind is Serum Institute manufactured vaccines are not solely for the Indian population. SII needs to supply 40 per cent of its vaccines to Covax which is an initiative of several organizations including WHO to supply vaccines to more than 90 economically backward countries.

Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine approved by India can’t really help either as the manufacturer’s capacity lies at 500k only. However the initiative to manufacture Sputnik V in India might prove helpful.

Another reason is the lack of orders by the Indian government to the manufacturers. Under Operation Warp Speed the USA placed advanced orders with many vaccine companies even before their vaccines were approved and even though some vaccines didn’t get approved still USA had guaranteed supplies of vaccines for its population. Whereas the Indian government did not place any such advanced orders. Reasons behind this might be the lack of funds to place advanced orders. Poonawala from SII said in an interview that they couldn’t improve their capacities as there were no orders from the government of India. The statement was justified afterwards but if there lies truth in such statement, its the failure of the government of India. Another reason of not placing advanced orders might be the assumption that the infection was over at the end of the first wave of infection.

Under ‘Vaccine Maitri’ program India exported large quantities of vaccines to other countries. From January to April 2021 more vaccine doses were exported than vaccinated Indian residents.

First order placed for vaccines by the Indian government was 1.65 crore doses in the month of January 2021 and 1.5 crore doses in February. The government of India placed the first huge order of 12 crore doses in March 2021 when the country was already struck by the second wave of infection.

Adar Poonawala of SII said the vaccine shortage may go on till July 2021. Several experts have also warned about third and fourth wave of infection in the country as the infection continues to spread within the population alongside the slow vaccination.

The situation got even more complicated when the central government ordered states to arrange vaccine supplies for themselves. Many states released global tenders. Many companies whereas were not ready to deal only with central governments of countries. The chaos was ended with the central government of India announcing vaccinations free of cost for all its adult population and supplies being sent to states by the center after Supreme Court intervened the matter.


Possible Solutions

  1. Government may help the manufacturers with funds and supplies to increase their capacity. Other new manufacturers may also be looked forward to maximize the vaccine production.
  2. We should also start preparing for upcoming challenges of the pandemic. In the current situation the problem may lie with vaccine supplies but soon when the supplies would be sufficient the awareness about vaccines would prove to be the main issue.

For example many rural residents of Tamil Nadu are reluctant to vaccines after a famous actor Vivek died following inoculation. And if such problems prevail for longer, herd immunity stage would be harder to achieve.

3. As epidemiologist Giridhara Babu said the authorities should go for detailed district plans and social mobilization strategies to reach vulnerable communities.

What is Covaxin, India’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate; how long before approval?

India’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate Covaxin: How does Covaxin compare to other vaccine candidates around the world? Where does it figure in the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine?

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India’s top drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, has allowed Bharat Biotech India (BBIL) to conduct human clinical trials for ‘Covaxin’, making it the first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine candidate to receive this approval, the firm said. These trials are scheduled to start across India in July.

What is ‘Covaxin’ and how was it developed?

Covaxin is a vaccine candidate to developed by BBIL against the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology (NIV).

As part of this collaboration, NIV isolated a strain of the virus from an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient and transferred it to BBIL early in May. The firm then used it to work on developing an “inactivated” vaccine–a vaccine that uses a the dead virus–at its high containment facility in Hyderabad.(Read Coronavirus Global Updates)

https://db57d942241899c441ca465c80cfbd92.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html “Once the vaccine is injected into a human, it has no potential to infect or replicate, since it is a killed virus. It just serves to the immune system as a dead virus and mounts an antibody response towards the virus,” said the company, adding that inactivated vaccines usually have a better safety record.

BBIL’s Covaxin then underwent pre-clinical testing, which is when the vaccine is tested on animals like guinea pigs and mice to see if it is safe, before the firm approached CDSCO for approvals to move on to the next stage of testing — human trials. https://www.youtube.com/embed/YHhHkhHIhVo?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

What does the approval mean for India?

The Drug Controller General of India, who heads CDSCO, has given Bharat Biotech approvals to begin testing its vaccines on humans through phase I and II clinical trials. This brings India a step closer to finalising a domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine for its population–a positive sign at a time when the country’s cases continue to surge, especially in the national capital.

The first phase, usually conducted on a small group of individuals, tries to find what dosage of the vaccine is safe for use, whether it is effective in building their immunity to the virus and whether there are any side effects. The second phase is conducted on a larger group comprising hundreds of persons fitting the description of those for whom the vaccine is intended using characteristics like age and sex. This phase tests how effective the vaccine is on the population group being studied.

Also Read: Covid-19 vaccine may be ready in 12-18 months, says WHO chief scientist

How many more stages of testing would the vaccine have to go through before approval?

Vaccines, like most new drugs, are meant to follow a clinical testing process spanning four stages, starting with pre-clinical tests and ending with phase III studies conducted on thousands of patients. After approval from the regulator, the firm has to continue monitoring the use of its vaccine on patients and submit post-marketing surveillance details, which checks for any long-term unintended adverse effects of the product.

Bharat Biotech plans to begin its phase I and II trials in July, but is unsure of the overall timeline for testing and approving its vaccine.

“At the moment we are not sure how the vaccine is going to perform in the humans, as clinical trials are about to commence. Based on the success results of phase I and phase II, we will progress to the larger clinical trials. Thereafter, the licensure timelines will be set out upon receiving regulatory approvals,” said BBIL.

What other Indian companies are working on a Covid-19 vaccine candidate? What stage are they at?

Other Indian firms engaged in the development of Covid-19 vaccines include Zydus Cadila, Serum Institute of India and, since earlier this month, Panacea Biotec.

While Panacea is still in the pre-clinical stage, it is not clear whether Zydus and Serum have completed their preclinical studies and have also applied to CDSCO for approval to conduct human trials yet.

How does Covaxin compare to other vaccine candidates around the world? Where does it figure in the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine?

Covaxin has reached a more advanced stage of testing than two other vaccine candidates that Bharat Biotech is developing through global collaborations — the first is in collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University, while the second is with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and vaccine maker FluGen. Both these candidates are currently in the pre-clinical stage, according to the World Health Organisation’s draft landscape of Covid-19 candidate vaccines.

However, it is still far behind in the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine. AstraZeneca, whose vaccine candidate “ChAdOx1-S” with the University of Oxford is already at phase III trials, is the frontrunner. Serum Institute has an agreement to manufacture this vaccine.

Moderna, which is also close to beginning phase III trials for its LNP-encapsulated mRNA vaccine candidate with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is close behind.

Apart from Covaxin, which is not listed among the vaccines being tried globally, at least six other candidates are in Phase I/II trials and another five are in Phase I trials globally.

Globally, Zydus Cadila’s DNA plasmid and measles vector vaccines as well as Serum’s codon deoptimised live attenuated vaccine, which it is developing with Codagenix, are still in the pre-clinical stage, according to WHO.