The Punch

Highly contagious Delta variant moderately resistant to vaccine, particular­ly in people who have received a single dose

A virologist at the Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in this interview with DAYO OJERINDE, speaks on the discovery of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Nigeria and how it will affect the fight against the pandemic in the country

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Nigeria Centre for Disease Control last Thursday announced that the Delta variant of COVID-19 has been discovered in the country. How do we explain this to a layman?

This is an indication that the NCDC is up to the task for the swift and quick response to the detection of this variant on time. Delta is a variant of concern. Delta is the name for the B.1.617.2. variant, a SARS-COV-2 mutation that originally surfaced in India. The first Delta case was identified in

December 2020.

What are the symptoms of the Delta variant?

There is no scientific data yet to show if Delta symptoms differ from those caused by other variants. Vaccinatio­n has a role to play such that people who are vaccinated but develop COVID-19 anyway tend to develop milder symptoms.

How dangerous is the Delta variant?

We have possible attributes of these Delta variants, which are pieces of evidence of increased transmissi­bility as it has been reported in affected countries and potential reduction in neutralisa­tion by post-vaccinatio­n sera. Although, preliminar­y evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha.

How does a virus replicate itself to form another variant?

Viruses constantly change through mutation, mostly common among RNA viruses, in which SARS-COV-2 is one. A variant has one or more mutations that differenti­ate it from other variants in circulatio­n. As expected, multiple variants of SARS-COV-2 have been documented in different parts of the world.

Is it true that some of these variants are vaccineres­istant? If yes, how is this possible?

Delta is moderately resistant to vaccines, particular­ly in people who have received just a single dose. The most important thing is to complete the doses of the vaccine in order to be protected against the variants.

When people get vaccinated, are they totally free from contractin­g COVID-19?

Not at all. Once people get fully vaccinated, it is possible to be infected, but the severity of the infection is much lower than unvaccinat­ed individual­s. Getting fully vaccinated, which means both the first and second is the best way to protect yourself

Delta variant. The most important thing protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated.

Are the current vaccines potent against all variants of COVID-19?

The World Health Organisati­on has reported that all of the vaccines listed for emergency use do protect against developing severe disease, hospitalis­ation and death due to the Delta variant; apparently, this may likely be possible for other variants, though several researches are going on to validate this.

Do you think the country has enough machinery to contain the deadly Delta variant of COVID-19?

Not at all; the country does not have such capacity to contain the deadly Delta variant; we have to be extra careful by observing all non-pharmaceut­ical measures and encouragin­g vaccinatio­n.

Some countries are already experienci­ng the third wave, but it seems Nigerians have forgotten about the virus; is the third wave not imminent if people continue with their lackadaisi­cal behaviour?

This is what we do not hope for, but we have to take up the responsibi­lity by taking the non-pharmaceut­ical measures very seriously. We have to stop lackadaisi­cal behaviour and also keep to the rules of the game.

Testing has also reduced compared to during the peak of the pandemic in the country; won’t this increase community spread of the virus?

Yes, there is a great danger once the testing capacity is reduced like what we are experienci­ng presently; there should more actively testing centres in the country. We have to put in more efforts in increasing the testing capacity in the country alongside the genomic sequencing of the virus in order to have the true picture of which variant(s) of the virus is/ are circulatin­g in the country. The low testing capacity could probably increase community transmissi­on of the virus, which should not be experience­d.

How many variants of COVID-19 do we have at the moment? What are the difference­s between the variants? Is the Delta variant the most dangerous?

SARS-COV-2 Interagenc­y Group developed a variant classifica­tion scheme that defines three classes of SARS-COV-2 variants; Variant of Interest: The CDC classified this as ‘A variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralisa­tion by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccinatio­n, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissi­bility or disease severity’. These are B.1.427, B.1429, B.1.525, B.1.526, B.1.617.1 and B.1617.3

Variant of Concern: The CDC classified this as ‘A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissi­bility, more severe disease (e.g. increased hospitalis­ation or deaths), significan­t reduction in neutralisa­tion by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccinatio­n, reduced effectiven­ess of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures. These are B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and B.1.617.2, which is the Delta variant Variant of High Consequenc­e: The CDC classified this as ‘A variant of high consequenc­e, has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermea­sures have significan­tly reduced effectiven­ess relative to previously circulatin­g variants. But currently, there are no SARS-COV-2 variants that rise to the level of high consequenc­es’.

Some studies have shown that the B.1.1.7 is the SARS COV2 that is significan­tly dangerous.

We have to stop lackadaisi­cal behaviour and also keep to the rules of the game

Since the discovery of the Delta variant, there has been a rise in the infections recorded. Is it possible that the Delta variant is spreading faster in the country?

I can’t really say it is Delta variant, because such can only be concluded after genomic sequencing have been done but there is likelihood of such due to the characteri­stics of the Delta variant

The percent of those that have been vaccinated in the country is still very low, how can the federal and state government­s ramp-up vaccinatio­n?

Both the federal and state government­s should make efforts to buy vaccines, such that we shall not only be depending on the ones from the COVAX.

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