Mutating coronavirus

The novel coronavirus continues to pose new challenges, throwing life out of gear. While it is normal for any virus to mutate as it spreads across populations, a particularly virulent variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in the United Kingdom has sparked worry and renewed defensive action. Alarmed by the mutated version of the virus that is feared to be 70 per cent more contagious and has led to a big spike in Covid-19 cases, the UK government has clamped a strict lockdown in its southeastern region, allowing only essential services. Revoking the earlier relaxations okayed for Christmas celebrations, it has put the safety and health of its citizens ahead. To avoid a potential influx of carriers, several countries are scurrying to ban flights from Britain over the new strain. So as to not squander the gains of the dip in infections in the past few weeks, India has also, rightly, opted for caution and halted flights till the year-end.

This development has put the spotlight on the Covid vaccine and its efficacy against all mutations. Inoculations are already underway in England and are expected to start sometime in January in India. Scientists who are monitoring the situation, fortunately, are confident that with all guns blazing at the virus, we may yet get the better of it. They see the immunity developed through vaccination as the best shield against the mutating virus.

Thus, it is imperative that vaccine trials are carried out smoothly so as to meet the aim of their rollout next month. The PGIMS, Rohtak, which is conducting clinical phase III trials of the indigenous Covaxin, has hit a bump. Some volunteers are reluctant to take the shots as one participant got infected after taking one of the two doses required. Meanwhile, the UK experience also underpins the importance of strictly following Covid-appropriate behaviour. Complacency can hamper the fight against the formidable microscopic adversary that is continuously adapting itself. 

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