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COVID-19 | Covaxin may be 'more effective' against Omicron variant: ICMR official

The official has said since Covaxin is a virion-inactivated vaccine. 'it covers the entire virus and can work against this highly mutated new variant'. Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech has not said anything about the jab's efficacy against the new strain

December 02, 2021 / 03:48 PM IST
File image of a vial of Covaxin vaccine

File image of a vial of Covaxin vaccine

An Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) officer has claimed that indigenous COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin “is likely to be more effective against the highly-mutating Omicron variant” compared to other available jabs, the Hindu BusinessLine has reported.

The official, who was not named, said that since Covaxin was a virion-inactivated vaccine “it covers the entire virus and can work against this highly mutated new variant”.

Covaxin was also found to be effective against other variants such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta too, “so we can expect that it will be effective against the new variant as well”, the report quoted another ICMR official who, too, wasn't named, as saying.

The official, however, warned that we “have to be watchful till we get samples and test them.”

“We expect that it will provide protection. Once we get samples, we will test the vaccine’s efficacy at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune,” the official added.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

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.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech has not said anything about the jab's efficacy against the new strain that was flagged by South Africa in November.

A company source told Hindu BusinessLine that the vaccine was developed against the original variant detected in Wuhan and “has shown that it can work against other variants”, adding that research is ongoing.

The paper also quoted Wockhardt Hospital’s Kedar Toraskar, who also noted that theoretically since Covaxin cover all antigen and epitopes and not just the spike protein like mRNA (Moderna, Pfizer) and adenovector vaccines (Sputnik, AstraZeneca) do, “it may give better protection against Omicron”, but further studies and tests were required.

On November 28, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria had said Omicron has over 30 mutations in the spike protein region, giving it the potential to develop an immune escape mechanism, and thus the efficacy of vaccines needed to be evaluated critically.

The presence of spike protein facilitates a virus' entry into the host cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection.

"As most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, so many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decreased efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines," Guleria told PTI.

The future course of action would depend on what more data on its transmissibility, virulence and immunoescpae shows, he said.

The new, potentially more contagious variant, was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) by South Africa on November 24. It has since been identified in multiple countries across the globe.

It was designated a “variant of concern” by the WHO, which named it Omicron on November 27. A “variant of concern” is WHO's top category of worrying Covid-19 strain.
Moneycontrol News
first published: Dec 2, 2021 03:48 pm

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