WHO official gives verdict on vaccine efficacy against Indian Covid variant

The B.1.617 variant, believed to be driving the deadly second wave of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic in India, is the fourth variant that has been classified as a variant of global concern.
Dr Roderico H Ofrin
Dr Roderico H Ofrin WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) representative to India on Tuesday said that the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics continue to be effective against the coronavirus variant B.1.617, first identified in India, after the UN health agency classified it as a variant of global concern. According to news agency ANI, Dr Roderico H Ofrin’s statement on vaccine efficacy against the Indian variant of concern was based on what the WHO knows so far as per the discussions with experts globally.

“There has been an increasing rate of detection of this variant along with an increase and a surge of Covid-19 cases in parts of India. However, the relative contribution of this variant in the rapid increase of cases in the country remains unclear,” said the WHO official.

The B.1.617 variant is the fourth variant that has been classified as a variant of global concern. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at WHO, earlier told a briefing that there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility. Dr Kerkhove stressed that the scientists need much more information about the B.1.617 variant and all of the sub-lineages.

“Our Epi teams and our lab teams internally, there is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of B1617, as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said.

While the Union health ministry on Tuesday said that an early trend of decline in daily new Covid-19 cases and related deaths has been noted in India, the country continues to record over 3 lakh daily infections, overwhelming the healthcare infrastructure. In an interview with ANI, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan called on governments to boost exercises on reporting actual numbers, terming the rate of infections and fatalities “worrying”.

“I would say that at this point of time, the situation is very worrying, the daily number of cases and deaths that we are seeing today in India and other countries in the Southeast area region is a big concern for us and we also realise that these are underestimates. Every country in the world, in fact, the number of cases and deaths has been underestimated to its true number,” she told ANI.

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