Covid-19 Vaccines: Delta Plus variant may defeat vaccines, antibodies and infection immunity, warns Prof Jameel
While evidence shows that the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) dominated during the second wave of Covid-19 in India, there is a growing concern about the parent variant’s most recent mutation, known as the Delta Plus or AY.01.
Experts have said that the Delta Plus variant could evade both vaccine and infection immunity. One of India’s top
virologists and former member of the INSACOG, Prof Shahid Jameel fears the Delta Plus variant may be capable of
evading both immunities from Covid vaccination as well as immunity generated by earlier infections.
Prof Jameel explained that this is because Delta Plus possesses not only all of the characteristics of the original Delta
variant but also a mutation known as K417N, which was discovered in the Beta variant in South Africa.
“It’s well-established that the Beta variant of concern evades vaccines much better than the Alpha variant or even the
Delta variant,” he said. This is evidenced by the fact that the South African government had returned a consignment of
AstraZeneca vaccines, claiming that it was ineffective against the variant there.
MORE EVIDENCE NEEDED ON DELTA+ IN INDIA
Prof Jameel made the point that there is no evidence that Delta Plus is more transmissible. “As of now, we have no
evidence to suggest that is the case,” he told India Today.
“We hardly have cases to establish the Delta Plus variant as a variant of concern in the Indian population. In India, 20
cases out of 25,000 sequences are nothing. More sequencing is needed to determine,” he said.
Prof Jameel also stated that there is a reason to believe that Delta Plus is resistant to both antibody and vaccine
immunity, as well as treatments that prevent Covid from progressing, such as the new monoclonal antibody treatment
marketed in India by Roche and Cipla, which has shown promising preliminary results. This is also how former US
President Donald Trump got his treatment last year.
THIRD WAVE AND DELTA PLUS?
Is there a link between the Delta Plus strain and the impending third wave in India?
Prof Jameel said, “Currently, there is no evidence, but I would go on precedent. There were only a few sequences of
the Delta variant as we know it today in December 2020. However, it played a significant role in the second wave, so
we must proceed with caution.”
Will the third wave be more devastating than the second wave?
He said, “I don’t think it will happen anymore. I am hopeful that it was and will be communicated, and that INSACOG
will take the appropriate steps.”
Prof Jameel was a former member of the INSACOG, a government consortium involved in genome sequencing. He was
also the chairman of the Scientific Advisory Group associated with the government’s genomics committee, INSACOG,
until a few weeks ago.
“The Spanish flu arrived a century ago when we didn’t know what the virus would look like. I still don’t believe the third
wave will be particularly devastating, but it will primarily determine whether or not we follow protocols and
how we behave. If that does not happen, we are inviting trouble,” said Prof Jameel.
“I believe too much is being made of what Dr Randeep Guleria said about the third wave,” he said, adding that if
people do not follow protocol, we will see the third wave in 6 weeks, not that there will be a third wave in 6 weeks.
EFFICACY OF ASTRAZENECA AGAINST DELTA
Prof Jameel is not alone in his reservations. In a series of tweets, health expert and American scientist, Eric Feigl-Ding
wrote that the AstraZeneca vaccine may only be 60% effective against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.
Citing a study, Eric Feigl-Ding said, “The efficacy of AZ [AstraZeneca vaccine] against Delta variant is not 90 per cent
(it’s 60 per cent), Pfizer is 88 per cent in one non-trial study. However, 1 dose of vaccine (both types averaged) is just
33 per cent. And many countries are just 1 dose vaccinated.”
The Delta Plus variant is not yet a variant of concern in India. According to GISAID, an initiative to study virus genome
sequencing, there were 63 cases of the variant worldwide as of June 17 thereby reporting Six from India.
Eric Feigl-findings Ding’s have reignited concerns about protection against dominant Delta and newly discovered Delta
SEQUENCING OF DELTA AND DELTA+ IN INDIA
Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district saw six youths die due to Covid-19. While one of those who died from the Delta
variant had received two doses of the vaccine, the rest had received only one dose. More information is being sought
to determine whether there were any signs of the new mutation known as the Delta Plus strain (B.1.617.2.1), also
known as AY.01.
As many as 21 cases of the Delta Plus variant have been discovered in Maharashtra, with 9 cases discovered in
Ratnagiri, 7 in Jalgaon, 2 in Mumbai, and one each in Palghar, Thane, and Sindhudurg, said state health minister Rajesh
Tope on Monday.
By Cynthia N.