White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci has said that India’s indigenous coronavirus vaccine Covaxin was effective against the Indian variant of the virus, PTI reported.

“This is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis,” Fauci, a top immunologist, told reporters on Tuesday. “But the most recent data was looking at convalescent sera of COVID-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the Covaxin. It was found to neutralise the 617 variants.”

He added: “So despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this.”

India’ third phase of vaccination, where all adults are eligible, will begin on May 1. However, a shortage of vaccines is a major concern for many states.

The B.1.617 variant was first detected in Maharashtra in October, according to the GISAID global database. It was initially thought to comprise two mutations – E484Q and L452R – and hence, referred to as a “double mutant” variant.

Viruses mutate all the time, producing different versions or variants of themselves. However, what has made scientists worry about B.1.617 is the presence of three mutations, E484Q, L452R and P6814 – the reason why some are now referring to it as a “triple mutant” variant. These mutations have been found in other “variants of concern”, a term currently being used for the variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Despite lack of data, there is widespread speculation among Indian scientists that the country’s current coronavirus surge – the worst since the outbreak of the pandemic – is fuelled by the B.1.617 variant. India has been reporting over 3 lakh cases daily for the past week. It reported its highest-ever case of 3.6 lakh cases in a day on Wednesday.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that this variant has been found in at least 17 other countries.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has also said that Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, effectively neutralises the Indian mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2 and other variants. A preliminary study has shown that the other vaccine used in India, Covishield, also protects against the Indian variant. Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

Also read:

India’s triple mutant Covid variant is sparking global concern. Why do we know so little about it?