By Sumit Saxena
In the first wave of coronavirus in India last year, virus mutations were not a major issue, but the ongoing second wave, where the spike in cases is much steeper, has led to variants concern, which are more infectious and lethal. However, the vaccine technology platform for Covaxin and Covishield, can develop effective vaccines against mutations, said Y.K. Gupta, former Dean and Head of Pharmacology AIIMS, Delhi, and currently president, AIIMS – Bhopal and AIIMS-Jammu.
Gupta emphasized that unless there is a lot of variation, the vaccines (Covaxin and Covishield) will remain effective, and added so far, the vaccine is effective against the existing variants and there is no evidence that it is not generating antibodies. He insisted that these vaccines will be effective against all variants as on date.
At least five major variants have been reported in India, which include the UK variant, South Africa variant and Brazil variant. The double-mutant, which combines mutations from two separate virus variants, has been found in samples from Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. However, there is no evidence to establish it is widespread resulting in steep increase in Covid cases.
Could the Indian vaccine platform adapt to the change in variants in future to produce effective vaccine? Gupta replied, “Yes, it will adapt… If there is some variant against which these vaccines are not effective, then the platform can develop vaccine effective against that variant. This is a very advantageous situation. Vaccine can be developed very fast.”
Detailing on the efficacy of vaccines against the existing mutation, Gupta said as on date there is no evidence to show that currently available vaccine is less effective or non-effective against the present-day mutation, and there should not be any worry on this aspect. “When any mutation occurs against which, these vaccines are not found effective, then the platform technology which has been developed for both vaccines will help very quickly developing effective vaccine. The platform can adapt to the mutations to produce effective vaccine”, he emphasized.
Recently, several cases were reported, especially doctors, where people have contracted the viral infection even after prescribed two doses of vaccine. Gupta said it is not a situation to worry. “Vaccine does not mean that everybody who gets it, will get 100 per cent guaranteed protection. But in larger population these vaccines will prevent viral infection. That is why we say, 80 per cent or 90 per cent efficacy”, he added.