Amid concerns over the Omicron variant of coronavirus, Covid Task Force chief Dr VK Paul on Tuesday said India should have vaccine platforms that are “adaptable quickly” with changing nature of the variants.
Dr Paul said he hopes that coronavirus in India is possibly moving in the direction of endemicity where there is a low or moderate level of transmission going on.
“There is a potential scenario that our vaccines may become ineffective in emerging situations. In the wake of the last three weeks of living with Omicron, we have seen how such doubts have come up. Some of them may be genuine. We still do not have the final picture,” he said.
The new and potentially more contagious variant called B.1.1.529 was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24.
“And therefore, there is need for us that we have to be sure about having vaccine platforms that are adaptable quickly. This possibility that we need to tweak for us to remain in the game, so to say, with changing nature of the variants remains valid,” Dr Paul, also a Niti Aayog member, said.
He noted that in an endemic situation like the flu, India is adjusting every year.
“How soon can we create a vaccine which is using the same platform, but is now targeted to the variant of the day? …we have to be ready to be able to have a situation where resiliently we are able to modify the vaccines as they require. This may not happen every three months, but this could happen every year perhaps,” he observed.
According to Dr VK Paul, drug development will not go out of fashion for the next viral epidemic/pandemic that the world might face.
“And of course, the anti-microbial resistance challenge is also crying for drug solutions,” he added.
Noting that there is a need to examine how India’s classical drug industry can have a roadmap and risk-taking attitude, he said, “We are still crying for an effective drug to fight viral diseases, including COVID-19.”
Observing that COVID-19 has taught that viruses cannot be taken lightly, he said unpredictability in emerging scenarios of health must be respected and addressed.
“Pandemic is not over, we will continue to deal with uncertainty, even though we hope that we are possibly moving in the direction of endemicity, hopefully of a mild disease, that we can tackle,” he said.