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COVID-19 Explained: Will The COVID-19 Vaccine Be Effective Against The Latest Coronavirus Variant?

According to scientists, the COVID-19 variant, which has been spreading around the United Kingdom has undergone further genetic changes, what does this mean for the COVID vaccines?

COVID-19 Explained: Will The COVID-19 Vaccine Be Effective Against The Latest Coronavirus Variant?
Highlights
  • Viruses mutate, most of the mutations are fairly neutral: Expert
  • New variant could be more transmissible, maybe not more lethal: Expert
  • Existing vaccine may not be so protective against new variant: Expert

New Delhi: There is a ‘new’ variant of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, and it is causing major worries. Scientists have warned that the COVID-19 variant, which has been spreading around the United Kingdom has undergone further genetic changes and the latest tests have identified the mutation as ‘E484K’. This mutation has already been seen spreading rapidly among both Africa and Brazil variants. Dr Julian W Tang, Consultant Virologist, Clinical Microbiology, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, explained to NDTV if the variant could be a cause of concern amid the vaccine rollout.

NDTV: Please explain this latest variant to us and what are your concerns about it?

Dr Julian W Tang: The UK variant rose back in September-October, last year and spread through the UK. And we think its more transmissible because more of the COVID positive cases have this variant in them, over time. And just recently, we saw that this variant, 501Y.V1, has acquired a new mutation. The variant already has a 501Y mutation. But this 484K is present in the Brazilian variant and in the South African variant. The UK now has the two out of three mutations, that are already present in the Brazilian variant and South African variant. The reason for that may be convergent evolution. Convergent evolution is the independent evolution of similar features in species of different periods or epochs in time.

Also Read: Coronavirus Explainer: What Is A Sero Survey And Why Is It Important In The Fight Against COVID-19?

NDTV: As a virologist, is there something different about the way that this particular coronavirus is mutating? What are your concerns on that front?

Dr Julian W Tang: The viruses do mutate and most of the mutations are fairly neutral benign. Some of them will lead to a dead-end and just die off, but the variance the mutations that lead to the ongoing transmission may well be because the virus is getting more used to the human population. So, more transmissible, maybe not more lethal, but we haven’t seen any difference in the symptoms that the virus causes. But we know that the viral loads can be higher with the new variance. So if I take a swab from the mouth and test it to measure the viral load, it may be ten times higher for the new variant than the old variant. So, if I’m coughing at you or breathing and talking to you, without a mask on or even with a mask on, you are more likely to get enough virus to cause infection if you’re standing too close to me. Before, for example, where you could get away with standing within one meter, maybe now you need to stand two meters away from a person, with both wearing masks. Also, now you might need to wear a better mask. So instead of just wearing a surgical mask, you might need a better N95 mask to protect you from this variant because the viral load is higher.

NDTV: What does this new variant mean for the COVID vaccines that are currently being administered? Moderna has said that their vaccine works against the new variant, but will it work against the ‘new’ new variant?

Dr Julian W Tang: When it comes to the old UK variant, which is the 501Y, the vaccines worked fine against that, and there was no problem with it. It’s the new UK variant, the 484k, is causing the problem. To simplify, the old UK variant, without the 484K mutation, was fine with the current vaccines. But the if the 484K starts to IN spread, then the existing vaccine may not be so protective. That’s why both Oxford and Moderna have proposed to change vaccines to incorporate the new mutations. Because when you get vaccinated, you produce antibodies to that mutated form of the virus. So that’s the difference with the vaccines.

Also Read: Coronavirus Vaccine Glossary: 15 Terms To Know About Vaccination

NDTV: How extensively widespread is the 484K variant?

Dr Julian W Tang: So far we’ve only found a few of those, but the UK team can only source about 5 -10 per cent of all positive samples. So, we don’t know whether they’re missing some. Some people may have also been infected asymptomatically and not even sampled yet. So according to me its almost an underestimate on how many cases of this new variant we have in the UK.

NDTV: When it comes to vaccines, India is expecting the launch of their vaccine, which is the Russian Sputnik vaccine in a few months. There were concerns initially, but now everybody has seen the reports stating its efficacy of over 90 per cent. What are your views on that?

Dr Julian W Tang: It is good news for that vaccine because it is relatively cheap, its a bit more expensive than Astrazenca but there’s a reason for that; it’s much cheaper than mRNA vaccines. However, the efficacy level is just as high. So I looked at the paper, and I could tell that the Russians were so confident about the vaccine, that they happen to roll out the vaccine in the population before even the phase three data came through. So they designed the vaccine, they were confident with the vaccine and they did. But the rest of the world didn’t believe them. But now there are reports to show that the efficacy and the side effects are similar to the other vaccines in the market, like Oxford, Pfizer, Moderna, among others.

Also Read: Coronavirus Vaccine Explainer: How Effective Is Novavax Vaccine? When Will It Be Launched In India?

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,29,84,542Cases
20,45,14,204Active
3,35,32,126Recovered
49,38,212Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,29,84,542 and 49,38,212 have died; 20,45,14,204 are active cases and 3,35,32,126 have recovered as on October 23, 2021 at 3:51 am.

India

3,41,59,562 16,326Cases
1,73,7282,017Active
3,35,32,126 17,677Recovered
4,53,708 666Deaths
In India, there are 3,41,59,562 confirmed cases including 4,53,708 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,73,728 and 3,35,32,126 have recovered as on October 23, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,99,850 1,632

27,747 152

64,32,138 1,744

1,39,965 40

Kerala

48,97,884 9,361

81,490 603

47,88,629 9,401

27,765 563

Karnataka

29,85,227 378

8,920 97

29,38,312 464

37,995 11

Tamil Nadu

26,92,949 1,152

13,531 259

26,43,431 1,392

35,987 19

Andhra Pradesh

20,62,781 478

5,398 102

20,43,050 574

14,333 6

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,069 1

85 22

16,87,085 23

22,899

West Bengal

15,84,492 846

7,577 42

15,57,882 792

19,033 12

Delhi

14,39,526 38

340 29

14,14,095 8

25,091 1

Odisha

10,37,523 467

4,197 139

10,25,025 603

8,301 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,799 26

214 8

9,92,013 18

13,572

Rajasthan

9,54,396 1

32 4

9,45,410 5

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,378 25

165 9

8,16,126 16

10,087

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,729 8

80 8

7,82,126 16

10,523

Haryana

7,71,133 8

122 9

7,60,962 17

10,049

Bihar

7,26,045 3

30 0

7,16,354 3

9,661

Telangana

6,69,932 193

3,963 4

6,62,025 196

3,944 1

Assam

6,08,126 315

3,866 104

5,98,296 209

5,964 2

Punjab

6,02,163 28

230 4

5,85,382 24

16,551

Jharkhand

3,48,562 36

183 17

3,43,244 19

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,799 12

166 10

3,36,235 22

7,398

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,494 108

870 56

3,26,195 52

4,429

Himachal Pradesh

2,22,312 174

1,483 31

2,17,096 141

3,733 2

Goa

1,77,819 54

600 18

1,73,862 72

3,357

Puducherry

1,27,621 57

454 0

1,25,314 56

1,853 1

Manipur

1,23,107 56

906 440

1,20,294 494

1,907 2

Mizoram

1,16,689 745

9,636 398

1,06,653 1,143

400

Tripura

84,376 7

98 7

83,462 14

816

Meghalaya

83,269 59

698 37

81,128 94

1,443 2

Chandigarh

65,320 5

28 2

64,472 3

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,075 10

141 1

54,654 9

280

Sikkim

31,842 23

183 2

31,266 25

393

Nagaland

31,689 19

245 5

30,766 23

678 1

Ladakh

20,896

40 3

20,648 3

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,679 1

4 0

10,671 1

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,646

6 1

7,511 1

129

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