There is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against Covid-19 variants reported from the UK or South Africa and the changes in the variant were not sufficient to make the vaccines ineffective, principal scientific advisor, K Vijay Raghavan told reporters on Tuesday.
India has set up the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium of 10 government labs which would test and sequence the samples from international travellers and across the country as well samples of those being admitted to the hospitals.
The government will initiate studies to see the relationship between the new variant and seriousness of the disease.
Raghavan said that the increased transmissibility of the UK variant is a cause of concern. He said that there have been 17 changes in the spike protein of the virus, of which eight are important.
One of the changes increases the possibility of viral entry into the human cells, while another has been linked earlier to increased infectivity and transmission in animal models.
“Most vaccines do target the Spike protein, in which there are changes in the variants. But vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce a wide range of protective antibodies,” Raghavan said.
Health ministry has also conducted a two day dry run for Covid-19 vaccination in four states Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat on December 28 and 29. A government committee which includes health specialists is also working out a mechanism to decide who among people with comorbidities should get priority access to the vaccine.
India has touched 17,000 daily new cases and less than 300 deaths after six months. Five states accounted for 60 per cent of the total active cases in the country including Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
V K Paul, member-health Niti Aayog said that a decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases, active cases and death was reassuring and stood out particularly during this very period when several nations are facing a devastating situation. “The UK variant has travelled to several other countries and also to India, this variant may have its own run and we have to be very careful,” Paul said.
Health ministry data also said that 63 per cent of total cases in the country have been reported in males and 37 per cent cases in females and 70 per cent of Covid deaths have been reported in men and 45 per cent fatalities due to this disease have been reported in those below 60 years of age.