The head of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases division of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Dr. Samiran Panda on Sunday expressed hope that the Covid vaccine may prove effective against the new Omicron variant of the lethal virus.
"We are hopeful that India's vaccine will prove effective against the new variant, but it will take time to be sure about how much it will provide protection against the new variant," Dr. Panda told IANS.
Asked about the challenges the new variant poses to India, the ICMR scientist said "it poses equal challenges across the globe but we need to take extra precautions in view of this variant".
He said that scientists have so far observed the structural changes. "But more studies are required to confirm that the variant is deadlier than the other variants of Covid."
He added that it would require more time to examine whether the variant is getting transmitted 'really fast' or causing clusters of infection.
At the same time, he emphasised that those who have not taken the second dose of the vaccine should take the jab, and follow the Covid appropriate behaviour.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the new Covid variant detected in South Africa this week as the 'Variant of Concern' -- VOC, following the Technical Advisory Group meetings.
"Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a Variant of Concern and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron," the global health body said.
The WHO said that this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of re-infection with this variant, compared to other VOCs.