‘Surge can be fought by immediately vaccinating maximum population’
Says majority of variants more prevalent in this part of UT
JAMMU, May 12: Unraveling the mystery behind maximum COVID-19 related deaths in Jammu province during the 2021 surge, Apex Level Advisory Committee has pointed out that majority of the variants of the disease and Indian Double Mutant are more prevalent in this part of the Union Territory as compared to Kashmir region because of several reasons.
Accordingly, it has suggested that strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behavior and intensification of vaccination drive are imperative steps to effectively fight the surge and control the prevailing worrisome situation.
Quoting the findings of the Apex Level Advisory Committee, official sources told EXCELSIOR that of the 306 samples sent from Government Medical College Jammu, sequences from 228 samples had been generated and the reasons for the inability to sequence other samples included either poor quality of samples or insufficient volume of the samples.
Prior to December 2020, 72 samples were collected, in January 2021 (16 samples), February 2021 (90 samples) and March 2021 (128 samples). The residence of the patients from whom samples were collected included Jammu (215), Udhampur (11), Poonch (6), Kathua (9), Kashmir (59) and Command Hospital (6).
Of the 288 samples, 70 samples had mutations that were classified as VOC (Variants of Concern) or VOI (Variants of Interest) and/or important mutations. Single mutations were seen in 26 samples, two mutations in 13 samples and multiple mutations in the remaining samples.
“Mutation B.1.1.7 (UK variant), which has the potential for increased infectivity and spread in the community, was seen in 23 samples. This mutation is highly prevalent in adjoining State of Punjab as such was imported in large number to Jammu by the travelers”, sources said quoting the findings of the Committee, adding “ten samples had mutations similar to UK mutations with the same signature and have the potential to be more infectious as mutation B.1.1.7”.
They further said, “moreover, B.1.617 (Indian Double Mutation) was seen in 7 samples and this is the first variant to have 2 mutations that enable the virus to evade antibodies and increase infectivity. There were 17 samples with mutations without a linage number but have a signature to have increased infectivity. Similarly, there were 13 samples with the mutations with a linage number but with a signature to have immune evasion”.
Sources further informed that of the 266 samples sent from SKIMS Soura, only 123 samples had been sequenced. Fifty eight samples were collected in March-August 2020, 60 in November-December 2020 and in January-February 2021 (Group B Traveler samples). Of these 123 samples, only one sample collected in November-December 2020 showed mutation N440K. None of the samples from travelers showed any mutations.
“N440K mutation is one of the two mutations (N440K and E484Q) detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) opinion, there is no direct relation between the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra and some other States with the mutant virus strains N440K and E484Q of Coronavirus disease”, sources further said quoting the document of Apex Level Advisory Committee.
The Committee has come to the conclusion that samples collected from GMC Jammu and sequenced showed that 50 samples had mutations that have a potential for increased infectivity and 20 samples had mutations that have a potential for evasion. This can cause breakthrough infections in persons who had COVID-19 disease earlier and recovered or who have been fully vaccinated by any of the vaccines available in India.
Accordingly, the Apex Level Advisory Committee has pointed out that majority of the variants of the disease and Indian Double Mutant are more prevalent in Jammu region as compared to Kashmir region and has led to maximum COVID-19 related deaths in this part of the Union Territory.
In order to effectively fight the surge in cases and deaths in whole Union Territory in general and Jammu region in particular, the Apex Level Advisory Committee has suggested strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behavior and intensification of vaccination drive.
“Unless substantial population gets vaccinated, the worrisome situation cannot be controlled”, sources said quoting the recommendations of the Committee, adding “immediate vaccination of 30% to 40% population is imperative to effectively fight the pandemic and control the surge”.
Sources further said, “there is wrong notion among the people that after getting fully vaccinated they can get rid of facemask but the fact is that by properly wearing the facemask not only they get protected but at the same time they protect their contacts”.
The Committee has suggested the Government to procure vaccine at fast pace as presently there are reports that people particularly in the age group of 18 years to 45 years are finding it difficult to get the slots booked for vaccine mainly because of shortage. It has also laid thrust on tracing and testing so that COVID-19 infected persons get noticed and treated timely.