Covaxin, India's home-grown COVID-19 vaccine, has been found to neutralise the B.1.617 variant of the deadly virus, White House chief medical adviser and America's top pandemic expert Dr Anthony Fauci said.
Fauci was speaking to reporters during a conference call on April 27. "This is something where we're still gaining data on a daily basis. But the most recent data, was looking at convalescent Sera of COVID-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the Covaxin. It was found to neutralise the 617 variant," he said.
"So, despite the real difficulty that we're seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this," Fauci added.
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The New York Times on April 27 said Covaxin works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The antibodies attach to viral proteins, such as the so-called spike proteins that stud its surface.
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.
Developed by Bharat Biotech in partnership with National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research, Covaxin was approved for emergency use on January 3. Trial results later showed the vaccine has an efficacy of 78 per cent. Responding to a question, Dr Andy Slavitt, White House COVID-19 Response Senior Advisor, said that a strike team from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is headed over to India to help coordinate this response.
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"We are making sure that we are locating some of the raw materials necessary to create more vaccines in India, which I think is going to be an important help there," he said.
"We stand with the country of India during this very trying and tragic surge. We are working to deploy resources and supplies, including therapeutics, rapid testing kits, ventilators, PPE, and raw materials, that are needed to manufacture vaccines in India, and the CDC, which has a long history of working with and in India on public health measures, will be deploying a strike team to the country to support the public health efforts there," Slavitt said.
Given the strong portfolio of approved, highly effective and safe vaccines here in the United States, the administration is looking at options to share AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries as they become available. This should amount to around 60 million doses or so over the next two months, he added.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine is highly safe and effective, and approved in many parts of the world, and since it is not approved for use in the US, we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next few months," Slavitt said. "We have sufficient supply of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to accommodate our needs in the US," he added.
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