Bharat Biotech’s Covid vaccine ‘Covaxin’ may be more effective against the highly-mutating Omicron variant which emerged this past week, an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) officer has said.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous was quoted as saying by the Hindu Business Line that that jab is likely to be more effective against Omicron compared to other available vaccines. Covaxin, a virion-inactivated vaccine “covers the entire virus and can work against this highly mutated new variant”, the official explained.
Covaxin was also found to be effective against other variants such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, “so we can expect that it will be effective against the new variant as well,” another unnamed ICMR official said in the report. However, the official warned against complacency until more samples were received and tested.
“We expect it to provide protection. Once we receive samples, we will test the vaccine’s efficacy at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune,” the official added.
The report quoted a company source as saying that the vaccine was developed against the original variant discovered in Wuhan and “has shown that it can work against other variants,” with further research underway.
The paper also quoted Wockhardt Hospital’s Kedar Toraskar, who said that theoretically, because Covaxin covers all antigens and epitopes rather than just the spike protein like mRNA (Moderna, Pfizer) and adenovector vaccines (Sputnik, AstraZeneca), “it may give better protection against Omicron,” but that more research and testing were needed.
AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria had earlier stated that Omicron has over 30 mutations in the spike protein region, giving it the potential to develop an immune escape mechanism, and that the efficacy of vaccines must be carefully evaluated.
The presence of spike protein aids a virus’s entry into the host cell, making it transmissible and causing infection.
“Because most vaccines (work by) forming antibodies against the spike protein, many mutations at the spike protein region may lead to a decrease in COVID-19 vaccine efficacy,” Guleria told PTI.