COVID-19: How Concerned Should We Be About The New Strain Of Coronavirus? Know From Experts
COVID-19: We should be concerned about these variants of coronavirus because they were associated with an increase in the number of cases in both these countries.
It is important to continue taking precautionary measures for COVID-19
- The new strain of coronavirus has been found to be more infectious
- However, they do not seem to cause more severe illness
- They seem to behave like the previous viruses
While the world is slowly gearing towards getting a new vaccine, there's a simultaneous fear of the new COVID strain as well. How concerned should we be about these new variants of SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19, and do vaccines provide protection against these variants? Answering some of these queries is World Health Organization's chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan on its official Instagram. In the IGTV, Dr Swaminathan informs that since the beginning of the pandemic, we know that this virus has gone through changes and there have been variants before as well.
How concerned should we be about the new strain of coronavirus?
Two particular variants have been reported to WHO, she says. "One of them was identified in the UK and one was identified in South Africa. They have one change in common: N501Y mutation. Apart from this, the two are different," says Dr Swaminathan.
We should be concerned about these variants of coronavirus because they were associated with an increase in the number of cases in both these countries. "Scientists have found that these variants tend to spread faster and are more infectious. That's the worrying part," she adds.
However, they do not seem to cause more severe illness or higher death rate or any sort of clinical manifestations. They seem to behave like the previous viruses, and cause very similar kind of disease.
Do these vaccines protect us from these variants?
Vaccines for infections like measles tend to work all the time, and there's no need to make any changes to it. But vaccines for diseases like influenza virus, the structure of the vaccine needs to be changed every year, based on the circulating strains of the virus.
"For SARS-CoV-2, scientists are still learning and observing, and the knowledge is evolving. For now, most scientists believe that the vaccines that are currently in development and the ones that have been approved, should provide protection against several variants." says Dr Swaminathan.
These vaccines elicit a fairly broad immune response, a host of antibodies and cell-mediated immune responses. A couple of changes or mutations in the virus should not make these vaccines ineffective, she adds.
Having said that, there are still studies going around in the world, to actually confirm this, Dr Swaminathan clarifies. And, in case the vaccines are found to be less effective against these variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the antigens and vaccines quite quickly. This is possible because of the way vaccines are developed nowadays.
Till the time a large population is vaccinated, efforts need to be made to prevent catching the infection and transmitting it as far as possible. Practicing hand hygiene, maintaining social distancing and wearing a masks are some of the most important tips for prevention.
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