Delta-plus variant of coronavirus is highly infectious but there is no need to panic, former ICMR chief, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar said on Sunday. With ICMR data showing over 70 per cent of people having developed immunity against coronavirus, the country appears to be heading towards herd immunity but the Delta-plus variant has created a frightening environment, said another doctor in a webinar on Covid.
Noting the highly infectious nature of the Delta-plus variant, former chief of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Gangakhedkar said a vaccine is also less effective to it. Dr Gangakhedkar, however, added, "There is no need to panic. Researches have shown that mRNA vaccine is likely to be more effective against it."
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The ex-ICMR chief was part of a group of doctors from different parts of the country who held an in-depth discussion on the possible third wave of coronavirus infection through a webinar organised here on Sunday. The organiser of the webinar and a senior dermatologist, Dr Dinesh Mathur said doctors from top medical institutions took part in the conference to share their opinion.
Dr Gangakhedkar also dispelled the popular misconception that people should avoid taking the Covishield vaccine if they have been given heparin' to stop bleeding or they have a low blood platelet count. He also said the risk of HIV infection can also be found higher in some groups like homosexuals, sex workers and transgenders during the pandemic.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The former ICMR chief rejected the notion of taking two different vaccines and insisted that one should never take two doses of different vaccines. Dr Virendra Singh, a respiratory disease expert, said ICMR data reveal that more than 70 per cent of people have developed immunity against the virus due to infection or vaccine and it seems the country is moving towards herd immunity.
But, the Delta-plus variant has created a frightening environment, he said. He, however, counselled caution, saying instead of being afraid, this pandemic can be avoided with Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Dr Raman Sharma of the Department of Medicine of Sawai Man Singh Hospital said it is known from the experience so far that the drug Remdesivir should be used only appropriately and equitably. It has also been found from research that drugs like Jack State Inhibitor are proving effective in the treatment of Covid.
Steroids should also be used at the right time and in the right dosage, he said. Other medical science experts who participated in the webinar included Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, a former director-general of ICMR, noted microbiologist Dr Nitya Vyas of the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and chief executive Dr Jaswant Goyal of JNU Medical College, among others.