At a time when countries around the world are bracing up for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to put an end to the prolonged pandemic, a new and rapidly spreading mutant variant of the pathogen found in the UK and South Africa has triggered global panic. Moreover, with reports suggesting that the new variants spread 70 per cent faster than the previous strain, people have started questioning the efficacy of the current vaccines.
Putting the speculations to rest, the Scientific advisor to the Government of India Prof K. Vijay Raghavan said while addressing the media that the vaccines will work against the SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in the UK and South Africa and that there is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against these COVID-19 variants.
Vaccines will work against the variants detected in UK and South Africa. There is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against these #COVID19 variants: Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India Prof K. Vijay Raghavan pic.twitter.com/jqiVpNB5Ng— ANI (@ANI) December 29, 2020
He also confirmed that so far it has not been found that the new variant of COVID-19 increases the severity of the disease.
Stating that there are concerns as most vaccines target the Spike protein in which there are changes in the variants, he added: “Vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce a wide range of protective antibodies. The changes in the variants are not sufficient to make the vaccines ineffective.”
At present, there are six COVID-19 vaccines in different clinical trial stages in India. Besides, three vaccine candidates which are in pre-clinical trial stages, Pfizer, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech have sought emergency use authorisation of their COVID-19 vaccines.
Moreover, amid the growing concerns of new coronavirus strain, the centre on Tuesday confirmed that a syndicate of various government labs all over the country for genome sequencing to the coronavirus had done roughly 5,000 genome sequences prior to the news of the UK variant came in. Giving the details, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that the government would be significantly increasing the number of genome sequencing and worl in a coordinated manner.
Prior to the news of the UK variant came in, we had done roughly 5,000 genome sequences across labs. Now we’ll be significantly increasing that number & would be working in a coordinated manner: Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan pic.twitter.com/7CVNsl8Ysv— ANI (@ANI) December 29, 2020
Earlier today, six passengers who recently returned from the United Kingdom were tested positive for the new mutant variant of coronavirus. Three of the patients have been admitted to NIMHANS, Bengaluru, two in Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and one in National Institute of Virology, Pune. All patients have been kept in single room isolation in these designated healthcare facilities by the state governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been started for co-travellers, their families and others, the government said in a press release.