‘Slight mutations, minor variants of Covid not to impact efficacy of current vaccines’

Monika Yadav New Delhi | Updated on June 13, 2021

Aparna Mukherjee, Senior Scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research

ICMR scientist also warns of possibility of third wave as lockdown is being lifted

The currently used vaccines – Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V vaccines – deployed by India in its fight against Covid-19 are able to generate antibodies against the Coronavirus and neutralise it and a slight mutation or the minor variants of the virus may not affect the efficacy of these vaccines, Aparna Mukherjee, Senior Scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, has said.

Speaking to BusinessLine, she said: “Till now, whatever variants we have and the vaccines we are deploying, we are doing fine. They are able to generate antibodies and Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V vaccines neutralise the virus, so we can keep expecting that even the slight mutation and slight variants which will come will not affect the efficacy of the vaccine,” Mukherjee said.

“But gradually, if we have a completely different virus in the future, whether these vaccines will be effective is difficult to predict,” she added.

On the occurrence of Covid deaths even after being fully vaccinated, Mukerjee said there is no vaccine which is 100 per cent effective. There would be a small percentage of cases wherein the disease may get severe. Meanwhile, on the vaccination of children, she said any investigational drug is first tested on adults, and when the safety net is assured, it is used on the paediatric population.

“Any new vaccine is never tested on children and only after safety is assured on adults, it is experimented on children. Vaccination of children can happen only when we have data; otherwise, it is too big a risk,” Mukherjee added.

Study on black fungus

On the rising cases of black fungus disease – Mucormycosis – Mukherjee said, it is a treatable condition if diagnosed early. She further said the ICMR is conducting a study on the risk factors which are leading to a rise in black fungus cases in the second wave of the pandemic.

Mukherjee also cautioned against the third wave which can’t be ruled out completely in view of the gradual unlocking in the country. “We are in a kind of micro containment everywhere. Once there is some movement, then there will be some surge in infections. So we need to be cautious for the whole of next year,” she added.

On the issue of Covaxin’s efficacy, Mukherjee said data on the clinical trials will be out soon as Bharat Biotech has shared the data with the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).

Regarding the effectiveness of Remdesivir and Ivermectin in treating Covid infection, Mukherjee said Remdesivir doesn’t help in terms of mortality of Covid patients. However, it has shown to reduce the hospital stay and the time for clinical improvement when used relatively early in the moderate phase and not when the patient is critically ill.

“Ivermectin does have biological plausibility. In laboratory, it is showing antiviral effect, but how far it will translate in real life is very difficult to say. These are all repurpose drugs which are being tried and nothing is really hitting. That is why we have so many molecules going around,” she added.

Mukherjee further said that India needs more Rapid Antigen Tests in rural and far-flung areas to detect Covid-positive cases as setting up RTPCR labs is going to be a challenge.

Published on June 13, 2021

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