Vaccines, Diagnostics Continue to be Effective Against Indian Covid-19 Variant: WHO Official

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Amid rapid surge in number of coronavirus cases across the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative to India Dr Roderico H Ofrin on Tuesday said the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics available continue to be effective against the Indian Covid-19 variant, which has been classified as a “variant of concern”.

“Based on what WHO knows so far as per discussions with experts globally, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics continue to be effective against variant B.1.617 variant, which WHO has classified as a variant of concern,” ANI quoted him as saying.

Earlier, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at WHO, told a press briefing that there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B.1.617 variant.

“B1617 virus variant that was first identified in India has been classified as a variant of interest by WHO. Our Epi teams and our lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B.1.617 variant, as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said and also stressed that the scientists need much more data about the this variant and all of the sub-lineages.

The WHO on Monday said that the Covid-19 variant spreading in India appears to be more contagious and has been classified as being a “variant of concern”. The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India last October seemed to be transmitting more easily than the original version of the virus, and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.

WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan had yesterday said that a prelim data has showed that Indian variant is more contagious and transmissible, adding that there is heterogeneity in the country in terms of spread of the infection. Urging people to get the vaccines, she said inoculation is important as it will reduce the severity of coronavirus.

In a exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18, Swaminathan had said that the double mutation strain consists of variants found in Brazil and South Africa and it evades body’s immune response.

“Surge in India increases chances of more dangerous variants emerging. Prelim data shows that Indian variant is more contagious. There is heterogeneity in India in terms of spread of Covid-19. WHO is concerned about number of cases and deaths in India. Globally, cases and deaths have plateaued, not in South Asia. South East Asia is seeing case rise owing to India. Overall numbers hide what is going on, need to go deeper in state, local level data,” she had said.

New cases of Covid-19 in India fell to 3.29 lakh after 14 days taking the total tally of coronavirus infections to 2,29,92,517, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday. A total of 3,29,942 infections were reported in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll climbed to 2,49,992 with 3,876 fresh fatalities, the data showed.

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