Changing the composition of the vaccine according to variants of interest; and variants of concern is the way forward, if there is a need, ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava has said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research is studying the effect of vaccines against various variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; as at a later stage a change in vaccine composition can suggested according to the circulating variants of concern; and variants of interest, ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava has recently said. Vaccine composition is easily modifiable, especially that of the mRNA vaccines, but whole virus inactivated vaccines can also modified. But this is only a need-based solution that the ICMR has thought of as a way forward, Dr Bhargava said.
Alpha Variant – Can vaccine composition changed?
As the Covid-19 virus is replicating, its variants have become a reason for concern as every variant appear to be stronger than the previous one. For example, the Alpha variant which had first reported in the United Kingdom has now overpowered by the Delta variant, first reported in India. Now, the Delta variant is responsible for 90 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom. Several other countries have now reported this variant.
It is crucial to study whether the existing vaccines are equally effective against these emerging variants; whether there is any change in the severity in the cases, or in the requirement of hospitalisation. A comparative study of vaccines’ performance against Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta is available; according to which Covishield and Covaxin are effective against all these variants.
The ICMR is studying the impact of the vaccines against the Delta Plus variant, which is being sporadically reported from various states in the country. In other countries too, the variant has been reported. India has classified the variant as a variant of concern though there is not enough evidence to suggest whether Delta Plus is more transmissible than Delta. Experts have said that the very localised cases in India are not enough to claim that Delta Plus is spreading rapidly.