A new variant of coronavirus Omicron has reportedly got over 30 plus mutations in the spike protein that has a potential to develop an immunoescape mechanism, hence the efficacy of the vaccines is needed to be evaluated critically said AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guelria.
The presence of spike protein enables a virus’ entry into the mass cell and is responsible for making it transmissible and causing infection.
AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guelria told PTI, “The new variant of coronavirus reportedly has got more than 30 mutations at the spike protein region and therefore has the potential of developing immunoescape mechanisms. 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.”
In such a scenario, the efficacy of vaccines including those in use in India needs to be evaluated “critically”, he said. He said, the future sequence of action will depend on what more data on its transmissibility, virulence and immunoescpae shows.
The new variant of coronavirus called B.1.1.529 is being closely tracked by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia INSACOG and its presence has not been detected yet in the country, informed the officials.
Dr Guleria emphasised the need to be very vigilant and having aggressive surveillance both for international travellers and in the region where there is a sudden increase in the number of cases. “Also, we must ask everyone to religiously follow Coivd-appropriate behaviour and not let their guards down. Also, it has to be ensured that people get both the doses of vaccine and those who have not yet taken the jab are encouraged to come forward to take it,” he said.
This new variant is potentially more contagious and was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24 and has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel among other countries. The WHO on Friday designated this variant as the ‘Variant of Concern’ and has been named as Omicron. A ‘Variant of Concern’ is the WHO’s top category of worrying Covid-19 strain.
The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana.
In a letter to the additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to the designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.