Indigenously developed coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, effectively neutralises the double mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2 and other variants, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Wednesday.
Covaxin was developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the National Institute of Virology and vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech.
Dr Samiran Panda, chief of epidemiology and communicable diseases division of ICMR, said the vaccine’s ability to neutralise the double mutant strain was good news and hoped that there will be less anxiety among people during the second wave of the pandemic, The Indian Express reported. “Covaxin has been found to effectively neutralise the double mutant strain also apart from other variants of concern,” Panda added.
However, on Tuesday, Bharat Biotech told NDTV that there was no information yet about the effectiveness of Covaxin against the coronavirus variant that was first detected in India.
“I don’t know about the South African variant yet, but coming to the Indian double mutant, we don’t have knowledge, we will have data in about a week,” the company’s Chairperson Krishna Ella told the news channel.
Labelled B.1.617, the mutant variant was first detected in India, but has been now found in at least 15 countries. It was believed to have two mutations – E484Q and L452R. However, scientists now say that it has another mutation – P6814 – because of which it is being referred to as a “triple mutant” variant.
Ella indicated that the company may take longer to have the data ready.
“I don’t want people to bug me saying you said one week,” Ella said. “It takes time for us because it has to work in BSL 3 [Biosafety level 3] We are very serious about it, how do we need to put the regulatory people in the game and change the strain quickly? We don’t want a vaccine which doesn’t work.”
The Bharat Biotech chairperson added that the government has to ask for a vaccine specific to the mutant that is believed to be driving the massive increase in coronavirus cases in India. “If the Indian government feels that the double mutant might be an important vaccine candidate, this is regulatory, the government has to take the decision, not a manufacturer,” he added. “There is flexibility.”
The Centre had said last month that Covaxin was effective against coronavirus variants, PTI reported. At that time, Union minister Ashwini Choubey had said that four variants were detected in India – two from the United Kingdom and one each from South Africa and Brazil.
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute’s Covishield are the two vaccines being used in India presently.
Amid the surge in cases, the Centre on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age can get vaccinated from May 1. Only those over 45 and frontline workers are being vaccinated against the disease so far.
Earlier this month, the Drugs Controller General of India had given emergency-use authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The government also fast-tracked emergency approvals for foreign-produced vaccines that have been cleared in other countries.