KT edit: Precaution remains our best guard, even against the new Covid strain

 

It is difficult to say if Covid-19 vaccine will offer a single-shot cure. In the absence of it, we should be prepared for incremental shots that can get us through this pandemic.

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Published: Tue 22 Dec 2020, 12:09 PM

In the popular imagination, a Covid-19 vaccine will eventually bring a decisive end to the pandemic, and yet the news of the new variant of Sars-Cov-2 is leading to apprehensions among people on the efficacy of the two vaccines approved by the US regulators. So far, the authorities have shown no doubt on this front, but it is only natural for governments to impose fresh restrictions and take precautionary measures to protect public health.

The UK has re-imposed movement and travel restrictions and several countries have banned flights from the UK until the new year. It is sure to spoil holiday plans of many this festive season. But that has been the case for much of this year. There could be anger and denial among people, who were looking forward to celebrating festive joy in the company of their loved ones, but adhering with Covid-19 measures could help deal with the situation better.


Viruses accumulate mutations as they spread; it is the usual nature of a virus. This is also the reason why we are advised to take flu vaccines every year to protect ourselves against any mutations. Sars-Cov-2, which causes Covid-19, has transmuted more than 20 times since it was first detected in Wuhan, China, last year. But what has caught the attention of virologists now is the number of mutations that are packed in this one strain altogether. The strain, B.1.1.7, also called VUI-202012/01 (for being the first ‘variant under investigation’ in December 2020), seems to have acquired more than a dozen mutations all at one. Even though the strain is not deadlier, its swift transmission rate is reason enough to up the guard. This new variant was detected in September this year in Kent, UK, but it is only this month that scientists identified it as a super spreader, suggesting the variant could be spreading the infection at 70 per cent faster pace than before. It is worth deliberating and researching what enabled the B.1.1.7 mutation to emerge. Is it just in the UK, or has it already evolved in a similar fashion in other places too?

There have been very few cure-all vaccines for viral diseases. Eradication of polio has been one of the biggest successes of modern medicine, and at the same time we have yearly shots for flu. It is difficult to say if Covid-19 vaccine will offer a single-shot cure. In the absence of it, we should be prepared for incremental shots that can get us through this pandemic. Meanwhile, it will pay to keep adhere with the Covid-19 precautions: wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and personal hygiene. They are still the strong pillars of preventing the transmission.




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