'Current vaccines will work against new Covid variant'
New Delhi: Confident that COVID-19 vaccines waiting for the approval will work against new variants of the coronavirus, Principal Scientific Advisor K Vijay Raghavan said that there is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against the SARS-CoV-2 mutants reported from the UK or South Africa.
So far it has not been found that the new variant increases the severity of the disease, he said on Tuesday while addressing a press conference.
"There is no evidence that current vaccines will fail to protect against COVID 19 variants reported from UK or SA. Most vaccines do target the Spike protein, in which there are changes in the variants but vaccines stimulate our immune system to produce a wide range of protective antibodies,"
Notably, the government has revealed that six cases of a mutant strain of coronavirus that first surfaced in the UK have been detected in the country. Three of the patients are in NIMHANS, Bengaluru, two in Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and one in National Institute of Virology, Pune.
"All patients have been kept in "single room isolation" in designated healthcare facilities by the state governments. Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine. Comprehensive contact tracing has been started for co-travellers, their families and others," the ministry said.
"Around 33,000 passengers arrived from the UK between November 25 and December 23. Of them, 114 have tested positive for Covid. Genome sequencing for other specimens is on. The states where these passengers arrived is tracing them and their contacts for Covid RT-PCR tests," the ministry said.
On new COVID variant, NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul said, "The UK variant has travelled to several other countries and also to India, this variant may have its own run and we have to be very careful." Giving a break-up on the basis of the gender and age of those infected with the novel coronavirus, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that 63 per cent of total cases in the country have been reported in males and 37 per cent cases in females.
"Eight per cent cases have been reported below the age of 17 years, 13 per cent in the 18-25 years age group, 39 per cent in 26-44 years group, 26 per cent in 45-60 years group and 14 per cent above 60 years," Bhushan said.
The Union Health Secretary further that 70 per cent of COVID deaths have been reported in men and 45 per cent fatalities due to this disease have been reported in those below 60 years of age.
"The number of active cases of COVID-19 has been registered at 2.7 lakh after six months, and the cumulative positivity rate is at 6.02 per cent while the positivity rate during last week was 2.25 per cent," he said.
"Five states and UTs which account for 60 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases are Maharashtra, Kerala, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh," he said.