The world is facing a new set of challenges, as the global COVID19 situation appears to be morphing into a much larger health crisis, with the origin of the virus still enshrouded in mystery. Various countries are witnessing a rising graph of COVID19 infections, despite (or in spite of) vaccinations, and the phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy is back again. The present concerns of dealing with the virus mainly revolve around the rapid mutations of COVID19 and their possible impacts, and on the effectivity or possible adverse effects of vaccines. Speculated future mutations are expected to evade the immunity accorded by vaccines, reinforcing the reality that the human body’s natural immunity supported by a strong psychology alone offers an effective way to deal with the new challenges.
The Origin of COVID19: A Renewed Debate
The uncertainty accorded by the rapid acceleration of the COVID19 coronavirus has reignited the debate about the speculated origins of the virus from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected. While a decisive conclusion may not ever be likely on the origin of the virus, due to lack of cooperation from China and its public relations machinery spread across the world, yet the debate once again brings into focus wider and deeper questions about implications of increasingly serious scientific manipulations by human societies.
The COVID19 coronavirus was first officially reported in December 2019 from China’s Wuhan city. It was proclaimed by scientific experts of World Health Organization (WHO) as having spread due to transmission from animals to humans, from an animal market. Both, WHO and the US experts, seemed to concur with the Chinese version that the virus spread from a wet market in Wuhan, effectively deflecting attention from the research being carried out at Wuhan Institute of Virology. Indeed, even the most recent World Health Organization (WHO) inquiry into the origin of the virus yielded a preliminary report in March 2021, where the lab-leak of the virus was declared as the least possible scenario. The report was widely criticized by all major countries and scientists for not having investigated properly.
Despite the repeated reinforcement of the official version of virus origin, doubts about the origin of COVID19 coronavirus were raised as early as February 2020, when a research paper established that the COVID19 genome sequence had a 96.2% match with a bat coronavirus, RaTG13 with which the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had been experimenting. RaTG13 was isolated by WIV for experimentation in 2013 and was extracted from a copper mine in China’s Yunan province, where six miners had reportedly died due to pneumonia in 2012 (Subramanian, 2021). Another paper – later withdrawn – from a WIV researcher suggested that the virus likely originated from a Wuhan laboratory. Furthermore, a former Israeli intelligence officer, Dany Shoham, had also publicly linked the WIV to China’s biological weapons programme (Money Control, 2020).
It subsequently came to light that the coronavirus-related research at WIV was being funded by American money – likely because it was less costly and safer to conduct such sensitive research in China and also allowed US access to the research at WIV. Dr. Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance, after obtaining funding from the U.S. National Institute of Health, subcontracted this research to Dr. Shi Zhengli of WIV. Interestingly, Dr. Daszak – who has openly censured views questioning the natural origin of the virus and who has a personal financial stake in WIV – was a part of the recent WHO inquiry team that gave China a clean chit.
As is apparent, scientific community became deeply politically invested, as subsequently, powerful group of well-known scientists were engaged to rebut any claims that the virus originated from a lab. Even digital, social and print media censored any work that sought to explore the lab-origins of the virus. However, US’s Defense Intelligence Agency’s March 2020 assessment suggested the possibility that unsafe laboratory practices may have led to the emergence of the virus.
On January 15th, 2021, the US State Department publicly released a ‘factsheet’ that asserted that researchers at WIV, China had contracted symptoms consistent with COVID19 and seasonal flu before the first officially reported case of COVID19 on December 8th, 2019 from China. It also confirmed the similarities between RaTG13 and COVID19. It further said that the WIV carried out classified military scientific research on behalf of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
A recent study by scientists Dr. Dalgleish and Dr. Sorensen – released in early 2021 – found that the virus was created at a laboratory in Wuhan and has no ‘credible natural ancestor’, after which the Chinese scientists tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats (TOI, 2021). The study claimed that the Chinese scientists took a natural coronavirus backbone found in cave bats and sliced it into a new spike, turning it into the highly transmissible COVID19. The study also found unique fingerprints in COVID19 samples that could only have arisen as a result of laboratory manipulation. They posited that the virus contains four positively charged amino acids in a row, which is only possible if it is artificially manufactured. Further, the study argued that a natural virus mutates gradually and is less pathogenic, which is not the case with COVID19.
The Chinese WIV research into coronaviruses was a part of the “Gain of Function” projects, as part of which natural viruses were tweaked to make them more lethal and more infectious, and these projects had been outlawed by the Obama administration in the U.S.
Till date, the confusion surrounding the origin of the virus persists and is likely to do so, as China has rejected another WHO investigation into the same. The fact that the host (a bat or an intermediary) that could facilitate the animal-to-human transmission of the virus has not been found has also helped to fuel the lab-leak theory. China has also removed all related publications from the WIV database that could lead to an incriminating inquiry. (The Hindu, 2021).
New Advances in Technology Create Possibilities
Regardless of the ongoing debate on whether the present virus leaked from a Chinese lab and whether it was done so willfully or deliberately, the ongoing developments have wider implications for human advancement in Science and Technology. Science and Technology have reached stages (and are rapidly progressing) where it is now possible to genetically engineer existing pathogens to make them more lethal and difficult to cure or treat (Prasad, 2021). The WIV has been conducting research on varieties of coronaviruses, focused on bioengineering more and more lethal coronavirus variants. Advances in the field of biotechnology and synthetic biology has made it possible to modify organisms or viruses to exhibit certain specificities as well. And it is those conducting such research who can possibly invent a vaccine or an antidote to such viruses.
In a 2019 interview, Dr. Daszak – associated with American funding of the coronavirus research at WIV – had claimed that after years of research, over 100 new SARS-related coronaviruses, some of which were introduced into human cells, caused SARS in humanized mice and were untreatable. The research involved “creation of novel, life-threatening and pandemic-creating viruses” (Prasad, 2021).
The field of synthetic biology itself has made rapid advancements in the 21st century. Its techniques allow scientists to quickly reconstruct or engineer/modify viruses based on available viral sequences (Li, Zhao, Zheng, & An, 2021). The applications of this field has spread to all major areas of human concern, such as energy, health, food and environment.
Given the advancements made in Science, coupled with all-pervading human greed and ill will, the havoc created by the COVID19 appears to be minuscule compared to the possibilities that could be unleashed in the future.
Vaccine Fundamentalism and a Never-ending Virus
The recent acceleration in COVID19 infections and the rapid spread of various variants around the globe – especially the Delta variant, which emerged out of India – have increasingly convinced the scientific community that this is a virus that is here to stay. The future trajectory of the virus is also unpredictable, with different sets of research emerging every other day and mutually contradictory guidance being offered by the so called experts on different occasions.
The optimism and confidence that had accompanied the commencement of vaccinations around the world – with many Western publications bidding a premature goodbye to COVID19 – early this year is now considerably deflated. India began her vaccinations in late March, and these coincided with the rise of a devastating second wave in the country, with the spread of the Delta mutant. While India’s second wave has subsided, the Delta variant is spreading across the world, and India is expecting her third wave soon.
World-over also, the cases and deaths have increased, with WHO reporting new cases up 8% and deaths up 21% in just a week, triggering warnings that the world has entered a dangerous, new phase of the pandemic in the third wave, which is creating fertile ground for breeding new virus variants (Cookson, 2021).
Vaccination and the Virus Spread
The biggest question arising presently is what is the link between virus spread, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccines, and whether there is any link at all.
In order to examine this, the official data from United States can be seen. The country is once again witnessing a massive virus spread of nearly 1 Lakh cases daily, even though nearly 71% of the adult population and nearly 60% of the total population is now vaccinated with at least one dose and 50.5% of the population is fully vaccinated with both the doses of vaccine. California and New York are being regarded as the epicenters of the pandemic in US.
Top 5 states based on the criterion of highest cumulative infection load have been taken in the table below (as on 31-07-2021).
|United States Provinces||Vaccination % (at least one dose received)||total cumulative cases||Deaths|
The states listed above have the highest case-load. They also have the highest death-load (except that of Pennsylvania and New Jersey which have a slightly higher death-load than Illinois) and highest one-dose vaccination coverage.
In terms of highest rates of fully vaccinated states, we have the following top 5 states (as on 31-07-2021):
|United States Provinces||Vaccination % (fully vaccinated)||Infections (total cumulative cases)||Deaths|
From both the tables, it is clear that states in which a substantial section of the population has received both doses of vaccines are performing well, as seen through lower case-loads and low death count. However, states in which substantial section of population is only partially vaccinated (with one dose) or in which a relatively lower percentage of population is fully vaccinated, are witnessing higher case-loads and death count.
This might suggest that the interim phase of ongoing vaccinations may trigger a greater virus spread, until the vaccination coverage is quite substantial. The danger, however, is that in this process of interim rising vaccinations, the rising case-loads may give rise to newer virus mutations that may or may not be lethal. A study by Austria’s Institute of Science and Technology recently found the danger of vaccine-resistant strains becoming established was higher when more than 60% of a population was vaccinated and other measures — mask-wearing and restricting social contacts — had been lifted (Cookson, 2021).
It is also seen that in the past one month, hospitalizations in the US have almost tripled, with nearly 40% hospitalizations concentrated in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana (Strozewski, 2021). Georgia and Louisiana have lower vaccination rate of around 38-39%. It is not clear whether vaccinated or unvaccinated are getting hospitalized. But whatever be the case, the virus has spread like wildfire with a rise in vaccinations, even if it is, hypothetically, among the unvaccinated.
Moreover, micro-level analysis of some provinces report that vaccinated people are equally susceptible to the virus as unvaccinated. A town in Massachusetts saw that 74% of the COVID19 cases in the past month occurred in fully vaccinated persons (CDC, 2021). Recently, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) director admitted, in an interview to the CNN, that, “Our vaccines are working exceptionally well…They continue to work well for Delta with regard to severe illness and death, they prevent it. But what they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission” (Becker, 2021).
In the case of UK too, a similar trend is seen. It is being reported that while infections may have risen, yet reduced hospitalizations and deaths are recorded so far. This is borne out by data in England, where the Delta variant is rapidly spreading, during the country’s third wave.
In the case of Canada – with the highest vaccination coverage in the world – the cases and deaths are low, but cases are now rising, reaching 12% of the peak and continuing to rise (Reuters, 2021). Canada’s total vaccination coverage (both fully and partially vaccinated people) is 72%. In Spain, the total vaccination coverage is 71%, and the country’s cases are also low, currently at 55% of the peak and falling (Reuters, 2021). This is followed by UK at 69.23%, where the graph of infections is now increasing. Country-wise variations also depend on which strain is currently dominant and how dominant it is.
Vaccine Effectivity in Question
The British Delta spread – and the American case analyzed above – raises questions about vaccine efficiency, since both are highly vaccinated countries. Like in US, the rapid rise in cases in UK has coincided with vaccination. Around 95% of the sequenced cases in Britain can be traced back to the delta variant, even though two-thirds of the population there have already been vaccinated (DW, 2021) – this does not necessarily mean that vaccines have fueled the spread of the variant, but the timeline of the virus spread and the vaccinations does coincide.
This naturally leads to the question of whether vaccines are effective, and to what extent. It is now being predicted that vaccines may not be very effective against the newer variants of the virus, which have worried the scientists, with the Delta variant having reduced the overall vaccine efficiency.
The following sets of research/arguments have raised questions regarding vaccine effectivity:
First, suspect antibody levels and duration of protection: COVID19 antibodies may be formed in the human body in two ways viz. by getting the infection, and, by getting a vaccine. However, vaccines are giving mixed results, as many reported cases do not see the formation of COVID19 antibodies, leading the governments and expert agencies to issue advisories declaring that antibody test has nothing to do with vaccine efficacy.
However, the protection offered by the vaccine is also now raising questions about its overall utility. For, many major vaccine companies – Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and others – are preparing a third ‘booster shot’ prior to the winter months, as the current vaccines may not offer complete protection against the virus mutants. Those getting vaccinated have also been informed that the effect of the vaccine would last up to 6 months, after which they may have to get vaccinated again or require a booster shot (Grossman, 2021; McNamara, 2021). However, even 6 months is a long time, as recent research suggests that total antibody levels start to wane six weeks after complete immunisation with Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, and can reduce by more than 50 per cent over 10 weeks (PTI, 2021). In a sero-survey in India’s Ahmedabad, it was observed that 30% of health staff at a hospital recorded reduced antibody levels after 3 months of vaccination, which according to the health experts, “indicates that protection against Covid reduces with time” (TNN, 2021).
It has also been reported that vaccines which use a messenger RNA (that is, m-RNA vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna etc.), instead of a dead virus (like India’s Covaxin, Chinese vaccines etc.), may be ineffective in protecting against virus mutants. These vaccines eventually make the human body develop resistance to the virus, requiring 5 or even 6 doses of vaccine in order to be effective (Anqi & Kang, 2021).
Second, the reduced efficiency of vaccines in preventing infection is, by now, well-established, ever since data from Israel got released. The Israeli data reported that Pfizer’s efficiency was 39% in preventing the Delta variant infection, while the Israeli government had previously estimated it to be around 64% (Anderson, 2021). It was after the release of this data that health professionals, vaccine-makers and governments shifted the goal-post from ‘vaccine prevents infection’ to ‘vaccine prevents severe infection and death’. What further goalposts will change in the future only time can tell.
Third, vaccine trials in different countries against different variants showed varying degree of effectivity, thereby confirming the fact that vaccines are not effective against all variants of the virus. A case in point is the Novavax trial early this year, which showed the vaccine to be 90% effective against the UK strain and only 49.4% effective in its South Africa trial – with both countries having two different dominant variants at that point of time.
Confirming this, a scientific study in March – using antibodies from blood samples for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines during trials – reported that, “Our study and the new clinical trial data show that the virus is traveling in a direction that is causing it to escape from our current vaccines and therapies that are directed against the viral spike… If the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, then we may be condemned to chasing after the evolving SARS-CoV-2 continually, as we have long done for influenza virus” (Columbia University, 2021). Confirming these studies, recently, the Lancet COVID-19 Commission Taskforce on Public Health admitted that new COVID19 variants have put the pandemic control measures, including vaccinations, at the risk of being derailed (The Conversation, 2021).
Fourth, the scientific community itself does not know what to expect anymore and contradictory research being put out in the public domain is sending mixed messages to the public. A controversial technical briefing by UK’s public health regulator on July 25th, said that 43% (50 out of 117) of those who died after the catching the new Delta virus had both doses of the vaccine, with the majority (around 60%) having received at least one dose (Spiegalhalter & Masters, 2021). And, the most recent study by British government showed that “levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people.” (Sky News, 2021).
Thus, the contradictory sets of data released every day from different parts of the world have increased, rather than addressed, the present uncertainty surrounding the virus and the vaccines, creating doubts about vaccine efficacy and fueling public skepticism.
Vaccination and Mutants
An important question being repeatedly raised looking at the data – rise in vaccinations across the world coinciding with rise in virus spread – is whether vaccination is fueling more mutants. Rapid virus mutations are raising doubts about the future course of virus and of vaccines. It is estimated that a single person infected with COVID-19 might carry 10 billion copies of the virus, enough to produce billions of mutated viruses every day, with many of these mutations not having much of an impact on the virus most of the times, or they may even make the virus less effective, or sometimes end up in a dangerous mutation (Freedman, 2021).
Many such mutants have emerged in recent times. Some are more infectious, while some have very little spread. These include mutants such as Eta, Kappa, Iota, Lambda, Beta etc. Beta is known to evade the immune system most effectively, while Lambda is reported to be extremely infectious and is striking fully vaccinated people with considerable ease. It has spread from Peru to almost all other Latin American countries, although now the spread has slowed (Freedman, 2021).
In an interview prominent French scientist and Nobel laureate, Luc Montagnier, said that vaccination has led to creation of more COVID19 variants – “For the China virus, there are antibodies created by the vaccine. What does the virus do? Does it die or find another solution? The new variants are a production and result from the vaccination. You see in each country. It is the same. The curve of vaccination is followed by the curve of deaths…I will show you that they are creating the variants that are resistant to the vaccine” (HT, 2021).
While this analysis was quite blunt and straightforward and was not well-received by the public, yet, subsequently, major researchers in the latest scientific study issued a somewhat similar warning, with more nuance. According to a study issued in late July, “…a fast rate of vaccination decreases the probability of emergence of a resistant strain… Counterintuitively, when a relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions happened at a time when most individuals of the population have already been vaccinated, the probability of emergence of a resistant strain was greatly increased… When most people are vaccinated, the vaccine-resistant strain has an advantage over the original strain… This means the vaccine resistant strain spreads through the population faster at a time when most people are vaccinated” (CNN, 2021). Or, when simply put, the research confirms that the vaccine-resistant strain – and newer mutants – spreads the fastest at a time when most of the population is vaccinated.
This appears to be the case in US too, where states with high vaccination coverage of one dose and more than 50% full vaccination coverage, are witnessing greater case-loads and deaths. This is why the US government is now advising even fully vaccinated people to wear masks and Israel – amongst the most vaccinated countries – is deliberating a lockdown again.
The uncertainty around vaccination and mutations was further enhanced in the light of a paper released by the British government on July 26th that analyzed that it is ‘almost certain’ that the virus mutations will lead to the ‘current vaccine failure’, arguing that some variants that have emerged over the past few months “show a reduced susceptibility to vaccine-acquired immunity” and that “as vaccines become more widespread, the transmission advantage gained by a virus that allows it to evade vaccine-acquired immunity will increase” (CNN, 2021).
Such developments have undoubtedly resulted in an increase in vaccine hesitancy – people refusing to take vaccines even when they are available. A Pew survey in December 2020 found that nearly 40% Americans refused to take the vaccine – many of them had rational enough reasons, believing that vaccines came too suspiciously soon and more data is needed (Kluger, 2021). In Europe also, vaccination rates have recently slowed down, despite the spread of Delta variant.
A recent study showed that countries like US, UK and Netherlands have to throw away tens of thousands of vaccines due to people’s refusal to get vaccinated in several areas and localities (BMJ, 2021).
Furthermore, it is not only the effectiveness of vaccines against mutants that is fueling doubt among people, but also the possible side-effects. For instance, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines shots have been reported to cause a heart inflammation condition – myocarditis – among young people (Gallagher, 2021). Astra-Zeneca has been linked to rare blood clots (Mundasad, 2021). It has also been linked to a rare neurological disorder – Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system or the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord – in India and UK (PTI, 2021). US’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) released data confirming around 12,313 deaths between December 2020 and July 2021 after receiving COVID19 vaccine, which was later downgraded to 6000 on the CDC’s website (Carlson, 2021).
Despite the uncertainty surrounding vaccinations, the compulsion to get vaccination is increasing around the world. In major countries like US, UK and Europe, efforts are underway to ensure that all get vaccinated. Many of these efforts also include mandatory rules, such as vaccination as a pre-condition to travel (‘vaccine passports’), mandatory vaccination for health workers and other government employees, private companies’ enforcement of strict vaccine rules as a pre-condition for job etc. Recently, news media company CNN, fired three of its employees in US who had entered the office unvaccinated (HT, 2021). Other big American companies to mandate vaccines include Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Disney, Walmart and others (NYT, 2021).
France, Australia, Italy and England have seen major protests over government’s decision to make vaccine passports and vaccination for health workers and other employees mandatory. In many European countries – such as France and Greece – various restaurants have stipulated that unvaccinated people will not be allowed to enter, while France and Italy have adopted the hardline approach of requiring vaccine certificates for entries into various other public places and for long journeys.
US has made it mandatory for millions of federal government employees to get vaccinated or undergo repeated COVID19 tests, and is also planning to introduce cash rewards to those getting vaccines (Reuters, 2021). Most of these major countries also have plans underway to ensure that no foreigner enters the country unvaccinated or else has to undergo COVID19 tests and mandatory quarantine.
Conclusion: An Unpredictable Path Ahead
As things stand at present, the situation with regard to the virus is changing everyday. The power and money wielded by the global pharma lobby is immense, and that is why there is much suppression of data and facts and no liability for any harm caused by vaccines. Despite the fact that vaccines are known to be effective for a limited period (6 months or even 3 months) and are not stopping the transmission rate of virus and are not even known to have the capability to fight mutants, their marketing has made the entire issue a different game altogether. It appears that vaccines act more like seasonal boosters which have to be taken every few months – even as pharma companies keep coming up with new booster shots and keep making profits.
What effect will such a scenario have on the body, and whether it will compromise the body’s natural immunity, is yet to be debated. The protection offered by natural immunity, in a fear-free psychology, is perhaps one of the best defenses against such viruses – natural or man-made. As the Mother had said, “To whatever cause an illness may be due, material or mental, external or internal, it must, before it can affect the physical body, touch another layer of the being that surrounds and protects it. This subtle layer is called in different teachings by various names, – the etheric body, the nervous envelope…All communications with the exterior world are made through this medium, and it is this that must be invaded and penetrated first before the body can be affected. If this envelope is absolutely strong and intact, you can go into places infested with the worst of diseases, even plague and cholera, and remain quite immune” (CWM 3, 1977, p. 89).
However, the current scenario is such that governments are leaving little scope or choice fundamentalism. This enforcement of a one-size-fits-all approach with regard to forcing everyone to get vaccinated disregards the basic universal principle that no two cases in the universe are alike. A treatment for an illness administered to one person and having a certain effect on that person can never have the exact same effect on another body. Yet, this is exactly the irrationality being enforced in the name of vaccination.
As a result, the present scenario has become a mixture of technological and scientific advancements performing the slavery of the utilitarian, profit motive in society, with mankind playing a dangerous game with Nature. The impact of vaccination on COVID19 and the further course of development of the virus is yet to be seen. But the course taken by Science has put us on a path of an almost complete enslavement to the forces of Vital Nature, if not yet in the form of COVID19, then in form of other anticipated challenges that await us.
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