White House chief medical advisor and America’s top pandemic expert Dr Anthony Fauci during a conference call on Tuesday said that India’s indigenous Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin has been found to neutralize the B.1.617 variant of the deadly virus. B.1.617 variant is one of the known variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus, which was first identified in India. It is called a “double mutation” variant as it contains the L452R and E484Q mutations, although it contains 13 mutations in total.
“This is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis. But the most recent data was looking at convalescent Sera of Covid-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the Covaxin. It was found to neutralize the 617 variant,” he said.
Talking about the current crisis being faced by India, Dr Fauci emphasized on the importance of getting jabbed. “So, despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this,” he added.
Explaining the working of Covaxin, the New York Times on Tuesday said that the vaccine works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The statement will put to rest the controversies that were being spiked on the efficacy of Covaxin by certain experts and journalists in India.
ICMR issues results on Covaxin’s efficacy
After being questioned on the vaccine’s ability to neutralize new variants, ICMR last week released the results of a study that proves that Covaxin neutralizes multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 including the double mutant strain which is said to be fueling the second wave of coronavirus in India.
ICMR study shows #COVAXIN neutralises against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and effectively neutralises the double mutant strain as well. @MoHFW_INDIA @DeptHealthRes #IndiaFightsCOVID19 #LargestVaccineDrive pic.twitter.com/syv5T8eHuR— ICMR (@ICMRDELHI) April 21, 2021
The report of the study said, “Twelve isolates of VUI lineage B.1.617 were propagated in VeroCCL81 cells and characterized. Convalescent sera of the COVID-19 cases and recipients of BBV152 (Covaxin) were able to neutralize VUI B.1.617.”
From January to March 2021, the researchers had identified 146 COVID-19 cases from the state of Maharashtra for study. Among these, 15 retrieved SARS-CoV-2 sequences demonstrated the presence of a combination of L452R and E484Q mutations, or the B.1.617 variant. Virus isolation was attempted from all the 15 specimens using Vero-CCL-81 cells. Among them 12 clinical specimens were found suitable for study with the vaccine.
The efficacy of Covaxin against this variant was tested using the sera collected from Covid-19 infected persons who were administered the vaccine during phase-2 of the clinical trial. The study showed that the efficacy of the vaccine against B.1.617 variant was same as the efficacy against other earlier variants like B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and B.220.127.116.11.
Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Ltd in collaboration with ICMR showed 78 percent efficacy in trial results.