Variant doubles risk

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 4/7/2021 1:25:47 PM IST

 It has been over two months since COVID-19 vaccination drives begun across India. The first group included healthcare and frontline workers. The second group to receive COVID-19 vaccine are persons over 60 years of age as of January 1, 2022 and persons between 45 and 59 years with comorbid conditions. The country on April 4, breached the 100,000 daily caseload mark for the first time since the pandemic began and became the second country after the US to report 100,000 new cases in a single day. More than half of those were confirmed in Maharashtra. As India grapples to stop the virus, a new double mutant strain of SARS CoV2 virus has been detected. According to the union health ministry the new mutant virus is in addition to other UK, South African and Brazilian variants of the virus already circulating in 18 states of the country. The new virus strain having two mutations, is highly infectious and has a potential to skip the immunity developed either by natural infection or vaccines. The development emerges as a cause of serious worry for government, as a second wave of the covid-19 pandemic is looming large in the country which has already vaccinated over 50 million people against the disease mostly to frontline workers and people above the age of 60.To meet the rising threat, the government of India has made those above 45 eligible for vaccination. However the union health ministry has denied that the rise in cases was linked to the mutations. Virologist Shahid Jameel explained that a “double mutation in key areas of the virus’s spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system”. The spike protein is the part of the virus that it uses to penetrate human cells. A large majority of people across the world are even doubting the safety and workability of the COVID-19 vaccines being ambitiously used right now. The question being asked is, will the vaccines be effective in fighting the new strains and will the vaccine ensure future safety? Since viruses, much like other pathogens are known to mutate, most vaccines developed after prolonged clinical research are known to work against all variants in a good manner. Some vaccines, such as the flu vaccines also require annual updation to tackle any changes in the influenza virus. From what is being seen presently, the new variants have the tendency to invade the body more easily, pass through some immune receptors, meaning that they may be able to block some antibody response. From a general perspective, vaccines are usually developed to take care of any mutations or vaccine and therefore, are predominantly, safe for use. According to Dr Randeep Guleria, AIIMS Delhi, variants and mutations may dim down efficacy rates, but they will not hinder the vaccines from working totally. Vaccines being currently used have been designed to lower down transmission, severity risk. Whether or not vaccinated people could catch COVID-19 again is still under study and this will only be known once enough data is available. However, the government has advised those above 60 and from 49 upwards with comorbidities to vaccinate in order to reduce the risk. 

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