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 response to the pandemic can help the country avoid any major outbreak, COVID working group head V.K. Floor. Amid growing concerns about the Delta plus variant, Paul, who is also a member of Niti Aayog, said there is still no scientific evidence to support the new variant being highly prevalent or reducing the effectiveness of the vaccine.
In an interview with PTI, Paul said that another wave of any size will depend on several factors, including overall discipline in terms of COVID-compliant behavior, testing and containment strategies, and vaccination rates.
“In addition, the unpredictable behavior of the virus could also change the dynamics of the pandemic. In such a scenario, their complex factor would determine the chain of transmission and outbreak.
“The emergence or non-occurrence of any wave is in our hands. In my opinion, it is unfair to set a date for any wave, ”he said. Daily new COVID cases have dropped from four million during the peak of the second wave of COVID to around 50,000 in the past few days, and the unblocking or lifting of restrictions is under way in many parts of the country.
“If we are determined, disciplined and have an effective response to the pandemic, we can avoid any major outbreak,” Paul said. Currently, three COVID vaccines – Covaxin from Bharat Biotech, Covishield from Serum Institute of India (SII) and Russia’s Sputnik V – are being used for inoculation in India.
When asked about the Delta plus variant, Paul said the scientific knowledge about it was still in its infancy.
“The so-called Delta Plus variant shows an additional mutation in the Delta variant, and since this is a new variant, the scientific knowledge is still in its infancy.
“Whether this additional mutation in the Delta variant is associated with increased transmissibility or excessive disease severity, or with any adverse effect on vaccine efficacy, is currently not clear, and we should await this information.
“And we must wait for a systematic study of these aspects,” he said. On June 11, a new viral variant of the Delta Plus coronavirus was identified and was recently classified as a variant of concern.
Regarding the effectiveness of Covaxin and Covishield against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Paul said that, based on the scientific assessment 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 is close to paying compensation to foreign vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna, Paul said the problem has multiple dimensions and it is unwise to give a time frame to address such problems.
“The discussion on how to pave the way for internationally developed vaccines to India continues. This problem has many facets, and we are trying to find an agreed way forward as soon as possible.
“We are trying in every possible way to accelerate progress,” he said. However, he did not elaborate on compensation issues in connection with the approval of vaccines produced by foreign companies. Reparations is one of the issues that remains to be resolved between the authorities and the companies – Pfizer and Moderna – regarding the approval of their respective vaccines for use in India. On progress in filing Bharat Biotech Covaxin’s application for Emergency Use List (EUL) certification from the World Health Organization (WHO), Paul said the process is progressing very well.
“Additional documents were presented by the company last week. We would like to see an accelerated data verification and hope that a decision will be made very soon, ”he said.
Regarding whether the government is considering narrowing the gap between the two doses of Covishid, member Niti Aayog indicated that the country has decided to increase the interval between doses for Covishield to three months after carefully evaluating the scientific evidence.
“Such decisions are made by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), which includes our leading scientists. It is this group that should study additional data, additional scientific information and make decisions based on scientific principles.” – he said.
Last month, the government increased the interval between two doses of Covishield from 6-8 weeks to 12-16 weeks. “For now, they have decided to continue with the current dose schedule,” Paul said.