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WHO Affirms Existing Vaccines & Treatments Effective Against B.1.617/Indian COVID Variant

The WHO on Tuesday has stated that all existing treatments, vaccines and diagnostics continue to remain effective against the B.1.617 variant of the Coronavirus


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A day after classifying the B.1.617 variant of the Coronavirus as a concern at the global level, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday has affirmed that all existing treatments, vaccines and diagnostics continue to remain effective against it. Dr Roderico H Orfin, WHO's representative to India, while maintaining that the existing tools to battle the Coronavirus variant are effective acknowledged that there has been an increasing rate of detection of the B.1.617 strain along with the surge of COVID cases in India. However, he pointed out that the relative contribution of the B.1.617 variant in the increase of caseload remains 'unclear'. The variant is being dubbed in certain quarters as the 'Indian variant', with some people opposing it being named in such a fashion. 

Similarly, WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan asserted that the existing vaccines still remain effective against every variant of COVID-19 in the world. At present, India has two vaccines - Covishield by SII and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech - in circulation, with Russia's Sputnik V being granted Emergency Use Authorization by the DCGI. Swaminathan has assured that vaccines are 'extremely effective' against causing severe diseases & hospitalization but not fully effective in preventing infection. 

"Today, the focus needs to be on getting control of virus transmission, bringing cases and deaths down. There's a lag period of approx 2-3 weeks between peak in cases & peak in deaths. It goes without saying when cases come down, so will deaths," Dr Soumya Swaminathan said on Tuesday. 

'Variant Of Global Concern'

Late on Monday night, the WHO classified the B.1.617 variant of the Coronavirus, first identified in India, as a variant of global concern. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at the WHO, said Monday that the B.1.617 virus variant that was first identified in India had been classified as a variant of interest by the WHO. 

She said the Epi team and WHO lab team has been discussing with the WHO virus evolution working group this variant and everything that we know about it in terms of transmissibility and any studies that are being done in India as well as in other countries where this virus is circulating.

She added that even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage so we need more targeted sequencing to be done, and to be shared in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating. 

India's COVID tally

The single-day rise in new coronavirus infections in India fell to 3.29 lakh after 14 days taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 2,29,92,517, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.

A total of 3,29,942 infections were reported in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll climbed to 2,49,992 with 3,876 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. After registering a steady rise for two months, the active cases have reduced to 37,15,221 comprising 16.16 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 82.75 per cent. The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 1,90,27,304, while the case fatality rate was recorded at 1.09 per cent, the data stated.

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