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COVID-19 vaccines could partially work on new variant Omicron, says ex-ICMR scientist Dr Gangakhedkar

Gangakhedkar mentioned the general public has an necessary function to play by following the essential guidelines of carrying masks, sustaining hand hygiene and social distancing

Representational picture. Shutterstock

Amid rising issues over Omicron, former Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) scientist Dr Raman Gangakhedkar advised Information18 that vaccines could present solely partial safety in opposition to the brand new ‘heavily mutated’ variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The epidemiologist, who was the face of the nation’s apex medical analysis company throughout authorities briefings on COVID-19 final 12 months, mentioned the surveillance of the brand new variant, which was detected in Botswana in southern Africa, won’t be tough if the federal government re-up its ante in testing, tracing, monitoring and isolation.

Gangakhedkar emphasised that public has an necessary function to play by following the essential guidelines of carrying masks, sustaining hand hygiene and social distancing.

“Omicron is going to hunt all those who are vulnerable or non-vaccinated,” he advised Information18.com.

“Everyone must make efforts to protect themselves against the virus and not provide an opportunity for the virus to enter, replicate and thus mutate further inside their body.”

Each time the virus reproduces, it entails a threat of manufacturing extra defective copies which have mutations, he mentioned whereas insisting that “Indians must take both doses of vaccine as an urgency.”

A brand new coronavirus variant — B.1.1.529, formally named Omicron by the World Health Organisation (WHO) — is thought to hold 50 mutations total, together with greater than 30 on the spike protein alone.

According to Gangakhedkar, who was concerned within the prevention and management methods in opposition to the HIV epidemic in India, spike-protein and antibodies share a relationship between the sword and its cowl. Hence, the modifications in spike protein could find yourself reducing the effectivity of antibodies.

Antigen is sort of a sword and its cowl is like an antibody. “Our body has two ways to produce antibodies, one is generated through vaccines while other is generated via natural infection,” he defined.

The antibodies work by neutralising virus. “But here spike proteins are different which may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccines may provide partial protection.”

While there’s a concern associated to the modifications in spike protein because the mutations are “large in number”, Gangakhedkar, who retired from ICMR final June mentioned “the surveillance profit is the distinction between Omicron and different variants will be noticed from the RT-PCR take a look at itself.

“The RT-PCR test searches for the presence of three genes. If 2 of the three genes are found, the result is COVID positive. In the Omicron and Alpha variant, the spike protein gene (S gene) will not be detected in RT-PCR. Hence only 2 out of three genes will be positive,” he defined whereas including that “all the positive samples where only 2 genes are found should be sent for genome sequencing instead of sending all samples.”

The new pressure has been red-flagged by scientists because of an alarmingly excessive variety of mutations, anticipating that the heavy mutations may make the virus extra proof against vaccines, enhance transmissibility and result in extra extreme signs. However, former ICMR’s scientist believes that theoretically, viruses mutate to emerge into extra transmissible however much less virulent variations. “They want to continue their lineage by keeping the host alive and infecting more and more people, theoretically.”

There is a few quantity of uncertainty with respect to the virulence — severity or harmfulness of virus — as most of those that obtained an infection from this variant are from youthful age teams, he claimed.

“Younger persons, as it is, tend to have less severe COVID disease. Hence we need to wait for a couple of weeks for conclusive evidence on virulence.”

What needs to be performed instantly?

According to Gangakhedkar, the federal government wants to right away speed up the vaccination protection among the many people who find themselves but to take their “first dose” of COVID-19 vaccine or second dose.

“The awareness of taking a second dose on time should also be boosted. India needs a strong campaign to clarify that vaccines work well with full dose and not partial.”

This is the suitable time to launch aggressive testing, monitoring and tracing contemplating the day by day variety of infections within the nation are lowest. “Health techniques are below minimal stress because of COVID-19 . Though we have to instantly isolate folks carrying the Omicron pressure, it could be good to imagine that each contaminated particular person might be having the Omicron variant and intensify subsequent methods.”

There is not any must introduce excessive measures resembling lockdown.

“Some international locations which can be choosing lockdowns are already witnessing excessive load on their well being infrastructure because of COVID-19 and can’t afford to extend the load additional. In India, instances are below management and I don’t see any must take excessive steps. We solely want to return to the fundamentals.”

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