Emerging data shows that the UK COVID-19 variant (called VOC 202012/01) is a new mutation of the virus which has been identified as a particularly concerning strain of the virus by scientists globally as it feared as more transmissible than previous variants. It has also proven to be particularly infectious amongst children. In the wake of this emerging threat, Getz Pharma’s Public Health Line, brought together an esteemed panel of subject experts to shed light on the effectiveness of vaccines against mutations of the virus on January 2nd, 2021. The program was held LIVE at 7pm Pakistan, 5pm Qatar,10pm Philippines and 8am USA.
This strain is defined by 17 mutations, out of which eight mutations are located in the spike protein and at least three mutations have the potential to change how immunity is affected in terms of effectiveness of vaccines. A study from the Center for Mathematical Modeling of Infectious Diseases showed that this variant is 56% more transmissible than previous ones. The panelists shared data and analysis on various aspects of this mutation and the efficacy of the different vaccinations being made available. They also answered many questions posted live online by the audience.
Professor Zahra gave an overview of the virus structure, the UK mutations and genotype in Pakistan, while Dr Adeel spoke about the types of vaccines available and their efficacy. Dr Faisal discussed the impact of the mutations to the types of vaccines. His key message was that the vaccines are generally expected to work because they are equipped to recognize the virus effectively. Dr Mehreen elaborated on the mutations and discussed studies indicating that children may now be hotspots. Dr Daisy joined from the Philippines, and elaborated on what the experience has been in Philippines and how their government is taking steps for it. All participants spoke about various clinical trials in their respective countries.
KEY TAKEAWAYS OF THE TALK
We cannot rely on herd immunity as the level required to reach herd immunity is too high for any population to achieve it without vaccinations. This panel of experts discussed how vaccines do take into account different mutations of Covid-19 virus and hence are still effective against it. Vaccines are necessary as they help build antibodies in the body. Social distancing measures still need to be continued even after one is vaccinated as it takes time for vaccines to work and antibodies to be developed hence it is advised that all those vaccinated continue the social distancing measures and wearing of masks even after the doses are administered.
The session was carried out Live on Getz Pharma’s official Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GetzPharmaInternational/)
The Panelists were:
1. Dr Faisal Mahmood – Associate Professor, Section of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. He is the recipient of Tamgha-e-Imtiaz from the Government of Pakistan. He is a member of the WHO Working Group for Treatment and Prevention of HIV (EMRO region), and member of WHO Task force for Introduction of Fixed Drug Combination ART, as well as a member of Pakistan Medical and Research Council Surveillance Group and Pakistan Antimicrobial Resistance Network.
2. Dr Adeel Ajwad Butt – Professor of Medicine and Professor of Population Health Sciences at Weill Cornell Medical College. Vice Chair, Department of Medicine, and Director, Clinical Epidemiology Research Unit, Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar.
3. Dr Mehreen Arshad – Attending Physician, Infectious Disease, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases), Northwestern University School of Medicine, USA
4. Dr Daisy Ilagan-Tagarda – Infectious Diseases Specialist, Chair of Infection Prevention Control Committee at Diliman Doctors Hospital, Philippines
5. Professor Zahra Hassan – Section Head of Molecular Pathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. Director, PhD in Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Pakistan. Associated with the American Society of Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan, International Union for Lung and Tuberculosis and Pakistan Society of Immunology
The session was moderated by Dr. Wajiha Javed – Head of Public Health & Research, Getz Pharma Pvt. Ltd.