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August 13, 2021

New COVID-19 strains not ‘more infectious’, need to aggressively monitor situation: AIIMS Director

With two new strains of Covid-19, one each from the UK and Brazil, confirmed in a number of states, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria on Wednesday said that vaccines will be able to control the spread of coronavirus and lessen the mortality rate.

Guleria also there was need to aggressively study the mutations of the Covid-19 virus.

“Currently we have vaccines with efficacy of 70 per cent , 80 per cent, 90 per cent so even if there is slight fall in efficacy they will still be effective in preventing the virus from further spreading,” Guleria told in an interview to ANI.

When asked about the new strains of the virus that have been found in several parts of the country he said authorities are closely monitoring the situation.

“It doesn’t seem that the strains are more infectious or vaccine will not work but we need to study it more aggressively and look at it more closely. We should not miss out on strains which are more infectious,” Guleria said.

“There are two things. One is the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing serious disease and death. I could say that the vaccine definitely will prevent serious disease and therefore decease mortality as far as new strain is concern. As far efficacy is a concern, one can argue that if you have a strain, the efficiency theoretically may come down a little bit but we do have a good buffer,” he said.

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday revealed that two new strains of the Covid-19 virus – the N440K variant and the E484Q variant have been detected in Maharashtra and Kerala. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that these two newer virus strains are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states as well as from Telangana, Dr VK Paul, Member (Health) of the NITI Aayog had said during the weekly COVID-19 update yesterday.

“We need more data to show how infectious the strain is. Currently, the data we have does not suggest that this is more infectious but I would say more data required. Samples have been taken from all areas where a surge has been seen. After analysis, we will have the data,” he said.
Guleria said that there is a need to monitor the situation closely as vaccines will be changed in the view of new variants.

“As of now, we do not need to worry but we need to monitor the situation closely and look aggressively for all the variants and make sure that none of them is becoming totally new and our vaccine efficacy has fallen.

He added: ” Simultaneously have to keep changing the vaccine also to take into account the new variants that are emerging.”

The AIIMS director called for developing a strategy to keep the mortality rate down while lauding the Central government’s decision to allow private centres to vaccinate people against COVID-19.

“I think this is a very good step because we have to move forward and vaccinate as many people as we can. We need to develop a strategy where we need to keep our death rate down. Therefore, vaccinating people above the age of 60 or those who are above the age of 45 with comorbidity will be a very good step in this direction, also opening it up for the private sector,” he said.

“We have a huge target to achieve even in a phase one we have to vaccinate at least 30 crore individuals that is something we need to keep in mind,” he added. (ANI)

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