From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Variants of coronavirus
Mains level : Paper 3- Importance of genomic sequencing in dealing with the pandemic
The article highlights the importance of genomic sequencing in dealing effectively with the pandemic and suggest the scaling up of genomic sequencing.
Why genomic sequencing is important
- An effective COVID-19 pandemic response requires, inter alia, keeping track of emerging variants and then conducting further studies about their transmissibility, immune escape and potential to cause severe disease.
- The success of the United States and the United Kingdom in containing the virus also goes to scaled-up genomic sequencing, tracking the emerging variants and using that evidence for timely actions.
- The data from genomic sequencing has both policy and operational implications.
- Our scientific knowledge and understanding about emerging strains is going to be the key to deploy public health interventions (vaccines included) to fight the pandemic.
- The emerging variants — with early evidence of higher transmissibility, immune escape and breakthrough infections — demand continuous re-thinking and re-strategising of the pandemic response by every country.
Insufficient genomic sequencing in India
- Though the procedural steps such as setting up the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomic Consortia, or INSACOG have been taken, the sequencing has remained at a very low level of a few thousand cases only.
- The challenge of insufficient genomic sequencing is further compounded by slow pace of data sharing.
Steps need to be taken
- 1) Scale-up genomic sequencing: India needs to scale up genomic sequencing, across all States.
- More genomic sequencing is needed from large urban agglomerations.
- A national-level analysis of collated genomic sequencing data should be done on a regular basis and findings shared publicly.
- 2) Research on vaccine effectiveness: The Indian government needs to invest and support more scientific and operational research on vaccine effectiveness.
- Rethink vaccine policy: There are early indications of immune escape and reduced vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant (especially after one-shot).
- These are the questions that experts need to deliberate and come up with the answers.
Consider the question “What is genomic sequencing and how it could help in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic? Suggest the steps India need to take to use genomic sequencing in curbing the pandemic.”
As India prepares for the third wave, increasing genomic sequencing and use of scientific evidence for decision making are not a choice but an absolute essential.