Maker of Covaxin claims vaccine ‘effectively neutralises’ UK Covid variant

Bharat Biotech study shows effectiveness against new strain of novel coronavirus

Covaxin is produced by Bharat Biotech in collation with ICMR. Representative photo

Bharat Biotech, the maker of Covaxin, claimed on Wednesday that its vaccine has been found effective against the UK variant of the pathogen.

The company conducted a ‘plaque reduction neutralisation test (PRNT50)’, which detects and measures antibodies that can neutralise viruses, involving 26 individuals who had received Covaxin. It tested them against the new UK strain as well as another strain that it had tested before.

Blood sera from vaccinated individuals showed comparable neutralisation antibody activity against both strains, the company said.

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“It was reassuring from the PRNT50 data generated in our laboratory that the indigenous BBV152/Covaxin, following its rollout in vaccination programme, could be expected to work against the new UK-variant,” the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, said.

The study was supported by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology at Pune.

The results indicated that Covaxin worked against the new strain, which was a crucial factor for the company getting an emergency approval from the Drugs Controller General of India VG Somani, the study said.

“It is unlikely that the mutation 501Y would be able to dampen the potential benefits of the vaccine in concern,” the study said.

The 501Y mutation is a genetic change of the spike protein RNA of the novel coronavirus, found in a UK variant as well the South Africa variant.

The UK variant is especially concerning because it is 70 per cent more transmissible. Last week the British government said that early evidence has also indicated that the strain could be about 30 per cent more deadly.

Discovery of the new strain was the primary reason for the DCGI giving the emergency licence to Covaxin even though there was criticism on lack of efficacy data even against the original strain. The DCGI gave authorisation to the vaccine “in clinical trial mode, to have more options for vaccinations, especially in case of infection by mutant strains”.

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