US chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci has asked wealthier nations to come forward to help India, which is now struggling to deal with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Fauci also praised Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, made completely in India, for its ability to neutralize the B.1.617 variant or the Indian double mutant strain.
In an interview to ‘Guardian Australia’, Dr Fauci said that countries and the world has failed to get together and help India avert the mammoth crisis it is witnessing. “The only way that you’re going to adequately respond to a global pandemic is by having a global response, and a global response means equity throughout the world. And that’s something that, unfortunately, has not been accomplished.”
Dr Fauci added, “So I think that’s a responsibility that the rich countries need to assume. Right now it’s a terrible tragic situation where people are dying because there’s not enough oxygen, where there’s not enough hospital beds. We have to try, looking forward, to get as much equity when it comes to public health issues as we possibly can.”
As per Union Health Ministry data, India recorded 360,960 new cases in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning, a new daily record. The country’s total number of fatalities crossed 2 lakh and now stands at 201,187.
Praises desi ‘Covaxin’
Fauci said that Covaxin, India’s indigenous vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech, has been found to neutralize the B.1.617 variant or the Indian double mutant strain.
“This is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis. But the most recent data was looking at convalescent sera of COVID-19 cases in people who received the vaccine used in India, the Covaxin. And it was found to neutralize the 617 variant,” he said, PTI reported.
“So despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this,” Dr Fauci said. “I’ll stop there with the final statement. The one thing you can gather from everything I’ve said: that it’s very important to get vaccinated.”
Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech in partnership with National Institute of Virology and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and was approved for emergency use on January 3 while still in clinical trial. Trial results later showed the vaccine has an efficacy of 78 per cent, according to ICMR.
The B.1.617 variant, mostly found in COVID cases in Maharashtra and Delhi, has three new spike protein mutations. This variant is said to be pushing the deadly second COVID surge across the country.
Covaxin uses dead viruses and works by teaching the immune system to make antibodies against the coronavirus. When Covaxin is administered, immune cells recognize the dead virus, prompting the immune system to make antibodies to fight the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization has said the B.1.617 that a variant of COVID-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in over a dozen countries.
The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database from at least 17 countries.
“Most sequences were uploaded from India, the UK, US and Singapore,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic. The WHO recently listed B.1.617 as a ‘variant of interest.’
(With inputs from Agencies)