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2 virus mutations per month, no need for alarm: Guleria | India News

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PUNE: Delhi AIIMS director and member of the national task force on Covid management, Dr Randeep Guleria, said here on Friday that the coronavirus had undergone several mutations, an average of two per month, and that new strains should not warrant unnecessary concern.
“The mutations have not led to any change in symptoms and treatment strategy. According to current data, the vaccines in the trial phase (which are up for emergency authorisation) should also be effective against the new (UK) strain,” he told TOI.
He added that the next six-eight weeks were crucial in India’s battle against the virus as cases and fatalities have been declining.
Guleria said the UK strain was red-flagged solely because the mutated virus was more infectious. “It, however, does not require extended hospitalisation. Neither does it cause more deaths. There have been many mutations during the last 10 months and it is quite common,” he said, while ruling out the impact of the mutations on the vaccines.
“If required, manufacturers can tweak vaccines to make them more effective against major changes in the virus. Currently, there doesn’t seem to be a major change in the virus. So, I don’t really think we need to look at a major change in the vaccine,” Guleria said.
On continuing international flight services, especially to the UK, Guleria said if these were resumed, the authorities should ensure gene sequencing of at least 10% of the flyers testing positive after arrival in India.
Gene sequencing is currently carried out in six-seven laboratories. Emphasising on a combined network of clinical, epidemiological and gene sequencing data, Guleria said, “We are thinking about giving more country-specific mutation data to a consortium of laboratories in India as part of an overall strategy by planners and the health sector.”
Over 50 vaccines are in clinical trials the world over. He said the country would have six-seven vaccines by the middle of next year. With enough data, a long-lasting vaccine could also be developed, he said, adding, “At present, the vaccine for frontline workers will be free of cost and the expenses will be borne by the Union government.”
On the possibility of herd immunity against Covid-19 in the country, the AIIMS director said plans were afoot to carry out more serological surveys across states to understand how many people had developed antibodies against the contagion.

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