EXCLUSIVE: Find out what the experts say about the COVID variants and the danger they pose

Updated on Sep 07, 2021 06:56 PM IST  |  98.9K
   
Covid-19 variants and the efficacy of vaccines against them
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Alpha, Delta, Lambda, C.1.2, Mu, and now the expected COVID-22. The variants of Coronavirus have been the talk of the town. Each passing day is throwing a curveball at the experts by presenting new facts about the new virus. While many States have been ramping up the vaccination process, the question is – what danger do these variants pose, and what does the future hold in the presence of these variants?

First, let’s understand how these variants are formed. “COVID has a chain of RNA. The structure of which changes so that it doesn’t get affected by Remdesivir or by vaccine-induced immune resistance. Just like a chameleon changes its colour, the virus changes its structure for survival,” says Dr. Praveen Khilnani, Director, Pediatric Critical Care, and emergency services, Senior Consultant, Pulmonology, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital.

The C.1.2 variant, found in South Africa on May 1, 2021, which is said to evade vaccines, is all false speculations. It is still found only in the region and has not yet entered India.

“Some also say that we will also see COVID-22 next year. But again, these are all speculations. We don’t know how the virus will mutate in the coming time. Also, what we need to fall back again on is the fact that all these variants have not proven to be any different. So, if this variant becomes predominant and is tagged as an endemic during the pandemic, that is what people are worried about,” says Khilnani.

Our current vaccines like Covishield, Covaxin, Pfizer, and Moderna, Khilnani says, are effective against several variants by and large. “These vaccines work 90 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent depends on the mutants that can arise in the near future,” Khilnani tells.

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With COVID being such a new virus, Khilnani says, it is learning on the job situation.

He points out that even if several other variants come to India, the best safety measure is to follow the COVID-appropriate behaviour, just like we did in the absence of a vaccine, last year.

“It has been told multiple times that masks, sanitiser and social distancing stays important, even if you are vaccinated,” opines Khilnani.

As for the Mu variant, which was first found in Columbia, it is termed as a ‘variant of interest’ by World Health Organisation, but not of concern. “We need not worry about this variant, because it hasn’t entered India, yet and even if it does, then vaccine and COVID guidelines will guide us through,” he says and insists that there is a need to ramp up the vaccination process in order to eliminate the risk of the number of cases rising again.

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Dr. AK Gadpayle, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Sharda Hospital, Greater Noida, tells you that Mu is nearly as infectious as the Delta plus variant. “As per a report, it can affect even a vaccinated person but the rate is 0.1 percent as compared to non-vaccinated which is 31 percent,” explains Gadpayle.

For those who wonder what are the symptoms of these variants, both Khilnani and Gadpayle agree that they are more or less the same as compared to CoV-2.

“There are some people who think why get vaccinated if the vaccine doesn’t work against the mutants. These are common myths. We can’t work as per speculations. The truth of the moment is that vaccines are an important shield against the virus and everyone should get it,” asserts Khilnani.

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