Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has announced that Covaxin, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR, has equivalent immunogenicity against the UK variant of the virus.
The findings may boost acceptability of the completely indigenous vaccine made from inactivated virus.
In a tweet, ICMR said the ICMR's National Institute of Virology Pune is the first institution in the world to culture the UK variant. "The sera collected from Covaxin recepients (showing 99.6 percent seroconversion following vaccination) neutralised the UK variants," ICMR said. Bharat Biotech, in another tweet said Covaxin effectively neutralises UK variants of SARS-CoV-2 reducing possibility of mutant virus escape.
The details of this finding have been made available on the preprint server for biological sciences, bioRxiv. The research paper on bioRxiv ays plaque reduction neutralisation test using sera collected from 25 recipients of Covaxin against UK strain and other heterologous strain found that the vaccine showed similar efficiency. It thereby dispels uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape in case of other virus variants.
The research paper, which is yet to be peer reviewed has been produced by ICMR and Bharat Biotech scientists. It also states the data that support the findings are available from the authors upon request. The co-authors of the study are Gajanan N Sapkal, Pragya Yadav, Raches Ella, Gururaj Deshpande, Rima Sahay, Nivedita Gupta, V Krishna Mohan, Priya Abraham, Samiran Panda and Balram Bhargava.
Covaxin is the one of the two vaccines that have received emergency use approval from the Drugs Controller General of India. The vaccine is already being administered to healthcare workers in 12 states of the country. Several countries including Brazil, Philippines, Myanmar and Mauritius are interested in importing Covaxin for their national vaccination drive.
While there were doubts raised over the lack of published data on the vaccine in the initial days, the research papers on Covaxin have since been published in journals like Lancet.