India must up Covid vaccine cover, or deal with mutations

Country has vaccinated only 9.1% of its population with both doses while K’taka has covered 11.59%

Published: 20th August 2021 06:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2021 06:30 AM   |  A+A-

So far, 35.62% of health workers in Karnataka have been vaccinated

Express News Service

BENGALURU: A study done in the US highlighted the fact that India, and countries with high Covid-19 caseload, need to increase vaccination coverage as it has been found to reduce frequency of mutations in the Delta variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

India is still grappling with vaccine supply issues, and has managed to vaccinate only 9.1 per cent of its population with two doses. Karnataka has done marginally better, covering 11.59 per cent of its population with both doses.

The study, conducted by University of Maryland researchers, involved collecting complete genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2 from the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database. Viral sequences from 20 countries were included. The analysis revealed that with an increase in vaccination rate, there is a reduction in the frequency of viral mutations. This inverse correlation between vaccination rate and mutation frequency was observed in 16 of 20 countries.

The study quoted the mutation rate of SARS-CoV-2 as 7.23 mutations per viral sample. From India, 4,451 samples were genome sequenced. The study found a high mutation frequency in India, US, Japan and Switzerland. 

Quoting the pre-print study, Chief Scientist at World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Soumya Swaminathan tweeted: “Vaccination can prevent new variants arising by reducing transmission, and reduce deaths by protecting the vulnerable. Two good reasons to ensure equitable vaccine distribution globally. WHO is calling for 40% population coverage of EVERY country by end 2021.”

In the study, scientists explored the association between vaccine coverage rate and mutation frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant (B.1.617.2), which was originally found in India, and created havoc across the world, leading to multiple waves in many countries.

Scientists have recommended mass vaccination, control measure implementation and continuous genomic surveillance as the most vital strategies to combat the Covid pandemic. Karnataka has so far vaccinated 35.62 per cent of healthcare workers, 2.12 per cent of frontline workers, 3.50 per cent of its 18-45 age segment, and 36.53 per cent of 45+ age group, as of August 18.


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