Srinagar, Dec 23: With the emergence of new mutated version of the novel coronavirus in United Kingdom and spreading to other countries, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Wednesday said it is possible that the changed virus might evade the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccine.
While it is anticipated that vaccine efficacy will not be significantly hampered by mutated virus, DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said the new variant might escape the immune response made by the existing vaccines that have been developed against the original strain of Covid-19.
“A mutated coronavirus strain has wreaked havoc in UK forcing the country to go into strictest lockdown,” he said.
“Dubbed VUI-202012/01 (first variant under investigation in December 2020), the mutant is more infectious than earlier strains of the virus,” he added.
DAK President said the variant carries 14 defining mutations including seven in the spike protein, the protein that mediates entry of the virus into human cells.
“This is a significant change in the genetic sequence of the virus and offers the virus a new advantage,” he said.
Dr Nisar said most Covid-19 vaccines produce antibodies that disable the virus by gumming up its spike protein.
“When the spike protein mutates, as it has in the new variant it could potentially evade antibodies by the vaccine that uses the older version of the spike protein,” he said.
“An inability to protect against variant strains may severely limit the strategic benefit of vaccines containing only the original strain.”
“In order to have long term efficacy against Covid-19, it may be necessary for vaccines to include multiple variants of the spike protein as immunogens,” Dr Nisar said adding “this strategy is routinely applied against influenza and all formulations in recent years have included three or four variant forms.”
“The mutated strain has caused Covid-19 cases to spike in UK and the infections with the new strain have already been reported in several European countries.
It is possible that this variant could have already entered many other countries including India and we have to wait and see if it slowly shows up.”