It would be unfair to set a date for any wave of Covid, as the behavior of the coronavirus is unpredictable and a disciplined and effective pandemic response can help the country escape any major outbreak, the head of the Covid task force said on Monday. , VK Paul.
Amid growing concerns about the Delta plus variant of the virus, Paul, who is also a member of Niti Aayog, claimed that there was no scientific data so far to establish that the new variant is highly transmissible. or reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine.
In an interview with PTI, Paul said another wave of any size would depend on several factors, including overall discipline in terms of appropriate Covid behavior, testing and containment strategies, and vaccination rates.
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“And in addition, the unpredictable behavior of the virus can also change the pandemic dynamics. In such a scenario, their complex factor will determine the chain of transmission and the epidemic.
“Whether or not a wave occurs is in our hands. In my opinion, it is not fair to set a date for a wave,” he said.
Daily new cases of Covid have dropped from four lakhs during the peak of the second wave of Covid to around 50,000 in the past few days and the process of unlocking or lifting restrictions is underway in many parts of the country.
“If we are determined and disciplined and organize an effective response to the pandemic, we should be able to move away from any major epidemic,” said Paul.
Currently, three Covid vaccines – Covaxin from Bharat Biotech, Covishield from the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Sputnik V from Russia – are being used for inoculation in India.
When asked about the Delta plus variant, Paul said scientific knowledge on it was still in its infancy.
“The so-called Delta plus variant has an additional mutation in the Delta variant and since it is a new variant, scientific knowledge is still in its infancy.
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“Whether this additional mutation in the Delta variant is associated with increased transmissibility or excessive severity of the disease, or that no adverse effects on vaccine efficacy are currently established and we must wait for this information to emerge.
“And we have to wait until these aspects are studied systematically,” he said.
A new viral variant of the coronavirus, Delta Plus, was identified on June 11 and was recently classified as a variant of concern.
Regarding the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Paul said that based on the scientific evaluation of the ICMR, both vaccines are effective against the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, which is currently the predominant variant in the country.
ICMR is the Indian Council for Medical Research.
When asked if India was about to compensate foreign vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna, Paul said the problem had several dimensions and that it was not wise to give a timeline for such problems.
“The discussion to pave the way for internationally developed vaccines in India is ongoing. The problem has several dimensions and we are trying to find a way forward as soon as possible.
“We are trying to accelerate progress in any way we can,” he said.
However, he did not delve into compensation issues regarding the approval of vaccines made by foreign companies.
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Compensation is one of the issues that have yet to be worked out between the authorities and the companies – Pfizer and Moderna – regarding the approval of their respective vaccines for use in India.
On the progress of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin application for obtaining the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use List (EUL) certificate, Paul said the process is going very good.
“Additional documents were submitted by the company last week. We would like to see an expedited review of the data and hope the decision comes very soon,” he noted.
As to whether the government is seeking to narrow the gap between two doses of Covishied, the Niti member Aayog stressed that the country has made the decision to increase the interval between doses of Covishield to three months after a careful assessment scientific data.
“Decisions like this are made by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NTAGI), whose members include our top scientists. It is up to this group to consider the additional data, the additional scientific information and to make a decision based on the scientific data. principles, ”he noted.
Last month, the government extended the interval between two doses of Covishield from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks.
“For now, their decision is to continue with the current regimen,” said Paul.
When asked about the amount invested by the Center in expanding the production capacity of vaccine companies in India, he said that financial grants in the amount of over Rs 670 crore had been awarded to various manufacturers. vaccines.
“But in addition, and very importantly, our scientific organizations have extended tremendous technical support to vaccine manufacturers by providing access to laboratories and offering vaccine testing sites in various locations,” said Paul.
For example, he said that the National Institute of Virology in Pune has provided support through very complex animal studies for vaccine development.
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