No data generated with Covishield, Covaxin on 'European' strain of coronavirus, Rajya Sabha told

NEW DELHI: No data has been generated with Covishield and Covaxin vaccines specifically on the new “European” COVID-19 virus strain, Union Minister Ashwini Choubey said on Tuesday.

Two strains of the coronavirus that originated in the United Kingdom and South Africa have already spread in several countries around the globe.

To a question on whether the Covishield and Covaxin are able to provide protection from the new coronavirus variant that was traced in the UK, Choubey told Rajya Sabha, “At present, there is no data generated with the above vaccines specifically on new European COVID-19 virus strain.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine Covishield is being produced in this country by Serum Institute of India while Covaxin has been developed indigenously by Bharat Biotech.

“However, in the case of the proposal of Bharat Biotech International Limited, during consultation, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the CDSCO noted that the Inactivated Whole Virion Coronavirus vaccine has potential to target mutated coronavirus strains,” the Union minister of state for health said in a written reply.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) under the Ministry of Health has given approval to Serum Institute of India for manufacture of its COVID-19 vaccine for restricted use in emergency situation with various conditions and restrictions.

It has also granted permission to Bharat Biotech for manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine for restricted use in emergency situations in public interest as an abundant precaution in clinical trial mode with various conditions and restrictions.

Choubey said many countries in Europe and the Americas are witnessing a resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases.

The United Kingdom reported a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 to the World Health Organization on December 14.

Currently in the UK this new variant has become the dominant circulating virus, he said.

As on January 29, about 61 countries (including the United Kingdom) have reported this variant of the virus, Choubey said.

According to the health ministry, India till January 29 reported 166 cases of the UK strain.

Elaborating on the steps taken by the government to prevent spread of coronavirus in the country, Choubey said all flights to the UK were banned from December 23 to January 7.

Resumption of limited international flight services to and from the UK has been allowed with effect from January 8 in a calibrated manner by initially allowing flight movement to and from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai only.

“All passengers arriving from the UK should carry negative RT-PCR test report for which the test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey,” he said, adding all international passengers who arrived in India from UK or transit through UK are again mandatorily tested for COVID-19 by RT-PCR at the airport.

“All passengers and their contacts who tested positive for RT-PCR are isolated, their samples are sent for whole genome sequencing to detect UK variant. All international passengers who test negative at airports are quarantined for 14 days,” Choubey said.