Even as India faces a second wave of Covid-19, World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan on Monday said a prelim data has showed that Indian variant is more contagious and transmissible, adding that there is heterogeneity in the country in terms of spread of the infection. Urging people to get the vaccines, she said inoculation is important as it will reduce the severity of Coronavirus.

In a exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18’s Sheeren Bhan, Swaminathan said that the double mutation strain consists of variants found in Brazil and South Africa and it evades body’s immune response.

“Surge in India increases chances of more dangerous variants emerging. Prelim data shows that Indian variant is more contagious. There is heterogeneity in India in terms of spread of Covid-19. WHO is concerned about number of cases and deaths in India. Globally, cases and deaths have plateaued, not in South Asia. South East Asia is seeing case rise owing to India. Overall numbers hide what is going on, need to go deeper in state, local level data," she said.

Speaking on efficacy of available vaccines in India, she assured, “There is no data to show that double mutant is vaccine resistant. All the available vaccines today in India and elsewhere prevent severe disease and death even if you get up the infection. You are not going to end up in the ICU critically ill. The message is take the vaccine whichever is available and you eligible for it. If your turn is there, please take it."

This can also be seen as a clarification by Swaminathan on her previous remark in a interview with AFP, where she was quoted saying that Indian variant may be dodging vaccine protections, contributing to the country’s explosive outbreak.

On being asked about how soon the WHO will be able to get a data on transmission of B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which was first detected in India last October, she said, “"We have to wait for the data to come in. The WHO’s expert group is dealing with it and are in touch with Indian scientists. I believe in next couple of weeks we will have enough data both from lab and clinical epidemiological observations. Just wanted to reassure the public that there is no such things as saying that vaccines are not working on this new variant resistant."

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 — which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — as a “variant of interest".

“It would have been easier to compare and clear vaccines for approval by WHO if all vaccine makers had followed WHO solidarity trials procedure," said Swaminathan.

Meanwhile, after recording over four lakh fresh cases for four consecutive days, India witnessed a single-day rise of 3,66,161 Covid-19 cases on Monday, which pushed its tally to 2,26,62,575, according to the health ministry. The death toll due to the coronavirus climbed to 2,46,116 with 3,754 more people succumbing to it, the ministry’s data updated at 8 am showed.