He said the production of a new influenza vaccine every year demonstrates it is possible to adapt existing vaccines to keep up with viral mutations.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, director said that immunologists are concerned about the possibility of accruing further mutations, which could render the vaccines less effective. However, such vaccines could be “tweaked” to overcome this problem. He said that apart from manufacturing billions of doses, the real challenge is the equitable distribution of vaccines to rich and poor countries.
Guleria was speaking at the 22nd Dr VS Prayag Memorial Oration 2021 organised jointly by the Association of Physicians of India and Dr Shirish Prayag family at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration.
According to Guleria, the 21st century is witnessing more outbreaks. “We had outbreaks of bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), H1N1 pandemic, Ebola, Zika, and Nipah viruses. If observed closely, most of the infections are zoonotic in nature.” A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans.
According to him, the reasons behind increase in new infectious diseases are growing travel, trade, and connectivity, increasing urbanization, and encroachment into new environments.