A health worker prepares a dose of the Covaxin vaccine at a vaccination center in Kolkata, India, on April 24.
A health worker prepares a dose of the Covaxin vaccine at a vaccination center in Kolkata, India, on April 24. Sudipta Das/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said India’s homegrown Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, has been found to neutralize the B1.617 variant, first identified in the South Asian nation.

“This (B1.617 variant) is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis but the most recent data, was looking at convalescent sera of Covid-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the Covaxin. It was found to neutralize the 617 variants,” Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a virtual press briefing by the White House Covid-19 Response Team on Tuesday.

Referring to it as the “troublesome India 617,” he added, “despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this.”

Covaxin is 78% effective against coronavirus, according to the data released on April 21 by Bharat Biotech, the company that developed the drug jointly with the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 100%, with an impact on reduction in hospitalizations, according to the release. 

The vaccine’s clinical trial involved 25,800 participants ages 18 to 98. The efficacy figure is based on an early analysis of 43 Covid-19 cases. Thirty-six cases occurred in participants who got a placebo, compared to seven participants who got the vaccine, according to a news release issued in March

About the vaccine: Covaxin is a two-dose vaccine. It is the first Covid-19 vaccine that has been developed in its entirety in India. In March 2020, following the successful sequencing of the novel coronavirus, the ICMR established a public-private partnership with Bharat Biotech to develop the virus isolate into a vaccine candidate.

At a webinar on April 23, India’s top epidemiological experts acknowledged that correlations exist between the rising prevalence of the B1.617 variant and the recent surge in cases in the country.

“In Maharashtra, we saw it (the variant first identified in India) go up we saw an outbreak, we are seeing it go up in Delhi, we are seeing an outbreak, these are very important epidemiological correlations,” said Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. According to Agrawal, the B1.617 variant was first found in India in December.

Another expert said the surge in the national capital region of Delhi is due to the prevalence of variants, including both the B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, and B1.617 variant. 

“We have seen a rise from 28 percent of mutated variants in second week of March…to 50 percent in the last week of March…the surge which we are observing in Delhi, I think it directly correlates with the type of variants which we are observing,” according to Sujeet Singh, director of the National Center for Disease Control.

India reported 360,960 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, a global record in the number of new cases reported in a day, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health.

The total number of cases now stands at 17,997,267, including 201,187 deaths.

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