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A health worker prepares a dose of the Covaxin vaccine at a vaccination center in Kolkata, India on April 24.
A health worker prepares a dose of the Covaxin vaccine at a vaccination center in Kolkata, India on April 24. Sudipta Das / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

Dr Anthony Fauci said the Covid-19 vaccine of Indian origin, Covaxin, neutralizes the B1.617 variant, first identified in the South Asian nation.

“This (variant B1.617) is something where we still get data on a daily basis, but the most recent data was from convalescent sera from Covid-19 cases and from people who received the vaccine used in India, Covaxin. It has been found to neutralize all 617 variants, ”Fauci, director of the National Allergy and Infectious Disease Institutes, said Tuesday during a virtual press briefing from the White House Covid-19 response team.

Referring to this as “troublesome India 617,” he added, “despite the real difficulty we are seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote to this.

Covaxin is 78% effective against the coronavirus, according to data released on April 21 by Bharat Biotech, the company that jointly developed the drug with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 100%, with an impact on reducing hospitalizations, the statement said.

The clinical trial of the vaccine involved 25,800 participants aged 18 to 98 years. The efficacy figure is based on an early analysis of 43 cases of Covid-19. Thirty-six cases occurred in participants who received a placebo, compared to seven participants who received the vaccine, according to a press release in March.

About the vaccine: Covaxin is a two-dose vaccine. This is the first Covid-19 vaccine fully developed in India. In March 2020, following the successful sequencing of the novel coronavirus, ICMR established a public-private partnership with Bharat Biotech to develop the virus isolate into a vaccine candidate.

During a webinar on April 23, India’s top epidemiological experts acknowledged that there are correlations between the increasing prevalence of B1.617 variant and the recent spike in cases in the country.

“In Maharashtra, we have seen it (the variant identified for the first time in India) rise, we have seen an epidemic, we see it increasing in Delhi, we are witnessing an epidemic, these are very important epidemiological correlations” , said Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. According to Agrawal, the B1.617 variant was first found in India in December.

Another expert said the outbreak in the National Capital Region of Delhi is due to the prevalence of variants, including both variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the UK , and variant B1.617.

“We saw a 28% increase in mutated variants in the second week of March … to 50% in the last week of March … the surge we are seeing in Delhi, I think is directly correlated with type variations that we are seeing, ”according to Sujeet Singh, director of the National Center for Disease Control.

India reported 360,960 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, a world record for the number of new cases reported in one day, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.

The total number of cases now stands at 17,997,267, of which 201,187 deaths.

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