Home/ News / India/  Covid-19 will mutate to overcome vaccine immunity, warns former WHO chief scientist

Coronavirus infection and its effects on human survival is diverse. While evading the infection has been the sole priority of humankind since the pandemic broke out in 2019, causing a two-three year long lockdown, the concern now remains how to evade a virus that possibly can mutate its way  out of vaccine immunity. 

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, in an interview with news agency ANI, has said, “There is a risk that the virus will mutate in a way that it can overcome the vaccine induced immunity. "

Swaminathan has suggested that continued surveillance should be done to avoid another wave that could potentially kill millions of people like the Covid-19 did during the second wave that was dominated by the Delta variant of the virus. 

Earlier in February, the WHO has estimated that 90 percent of the world population now had some resistance to Covid-19, but warned that a troubling new variant could still emerge.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. said there were now more than 500 highly transmissible Omicron sub-lineages circulating -- all able to get around built-up immunity more easily, even if they tended to be less severe than previous variants.

The latest in this mutation chain is the XBB.1.5 subvariant, known informally as “Kraken", in a menagerie of Omicron subvariants to dominate the headlines, following increasing detection in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. 

Notably, this cyclical pattern of waves of increased infections alternating with periods of much lower transmission is an expected feature of endemic infections that confer short-term immunity, such as Covid.

Experts have pointed out that the recent evolution of the virus is markedly different to what we saw earlier in the pandemic. Before this proliferation of subvariants, there were complete shifts from wild-type (the original viral strain) to Alpha, Delta, Omicron and the earlier Omicron subvariants (BA.1, BA.2 and BA.5) – each with substantially different effects on COVID transmission and immune protection.

Talking about the effects of Covid infection on the human body, Swaminathan pointed out, “It is well established that after Covid risk of heart attacks, diabetes, strokes goes up. Risk of getting a heart attack is 4-5% higher after Covid than getting it after vaccination. Covid infection is itself a main risk factor for subsequent heart attacks". 



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Updated: 28 Feb 2023, 06:19 PM IST
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