octors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said newly emerging variants could prolong Covid-19 pandemic.
“The new versions of the virus threaten to postpone an end to the ongoing public health crisis,” said DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a statement issued here.
“Ever since the pandemic began, the new variants continue to pop up which makes it harder for us to exit from the pandemic,” he said.
Dr Hassan said Covid-19 was supposed to be slow to change shape and it was expected that it would not change significantly for years.
“But the virus defied these predictions. It changed quickly and some of the changes were significant enough to designate them as variants of concern,” he said.
“A variant is of concern only if it is more contagious, causes more severe disease or evades the immune response.”
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Dr Hassan said just a couple of months after Covid-19 was discovered in China, a mutation called D614G emerged that made it more likely to spread and it soon became the dominant virus in the world.
“Months after, we saw some striking evolution of the virus,” he said
“Three variants of concern emerged – Alpha variant which was first detected in UK, Beta variant initially reported in South Africa and Gamma variant with earliest documentation in Brazil.”
The DAK President said another easier-to-spread Delta variant wreaked havoc in Indian states and was responsible for the devastating second wave in the country. The variant has now been identified in 111 countries and has become the dominant strain.
“Recently, a new more transmissible variant – Delta plus is on the move and has already been detected in many Indian states,” he said.
Dr Nisar said at the moment most vaccines appear to be effective against the existing variants, but any further mutations could evade our current vaccines and require booster shots of a tweaked vaccine to deal with them.
“Covid-19 is becoming more genetically diverse because many people are unvaccinated,” he said.
“The greater the unvaccinated pool, the greater the playing field for the virus to replicate and mutate.”
“Unvaccinated people can serve as variant factories and to prevent the emergence of new variants, we must vaccinate as many people as possible that too in quick time,” he added.