Mumbai: The World Health Organisation and Vaccine developers have started working on booster doses and drawing up the course of epidemiological action to tackle new variants of the novel coronavirus amid reports that some mutations dodge antibodies developed through some existing vaccines. Initial data indicates that new variants of SARS Cov2 escape the antibodies that are developed naturally or through vaccine, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at BioAsia 2021 on Monday. However, it is too early to conclude this development, she said. “WHO will be coming out with guidance in the next couple of weeks to define what data they will need to approve vaccines for mutant strains,” Swaminathan said at the two-day virtual summit being held in Hyderabad. Going forward, countries should start sharing clinical and epidemiological consequences of viral mutations, something that happens on the lines of influenza surveillance, she said. The emergence of mutant strains of the SARS Cov2 virus has raised fear of another wave of the pandemic that could lead to ineffective vaccines. In countries such as South Africa, the government has stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a trial found that the vaccine was not effective against the South Africa strains. 81163814But Swaminathan said it is important to note that most vaccines that are currently approved for Covid-19 prevent severe disease and deaths, and that is why despite these mutations, countries should go ahead with vaccinations. WHO will soon be rolling out the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India through the Covax facility, a global initiative to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine distribution is expected to start in the next few days to at least 30 low- and middle-income countries. WHO will also be coming out with a new nomenclature on mutant variants in a few days to distinguish them without referring to the countries from where they emerge. Nivedita Gupta, deputy director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, said the country’s premier medical research body is picking up samples from clusters and hot spots and sequencing them across the country. ICMR has instituted a mechanism of diagnostic detection of these variables as some of the variants like the UK one would miss the S gene in the currently under use RT-PCR tests. “So, if you are trying to diagnose a sample and say you miss the S gene, you know that there is some kind of variant you are dealing with,” Gupta explained. “We are implementing all across the country and we have very aggressively picking up samples from hot spots and keeping an eye on international travellers.” Vaccine makers such as Bharat Biotech and Biological E have also begun work on developing vaccines that would take on the new variants such as the South Africa strains.