No, Delta Variant of COVID-19 Was Not Caused by the Vaccine
The Delta variant of COVID-19 was first found in October 2020, much before the vaccines started being administered.
A claim that the "Delta variant was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine" is being shared in a meme template on social media platforms.
However, the claim is completely false. The Delta variant of COVID-19 was first found in India in October 2020, much before the COVID-19 vaccines started being administered.
Moreover, none of the vaccines given in India contains a live virus, so the vaccine can't cause the virus to mutate into a variant.
In fact, senior scientists, the WHO and the US CDC have maintained that variants are caused when the virus can spread without control.
The text superimposed on a meme template said, "The new Delta variant is from the vaccine". The same photo was shared by many social media users on Twitter, Facebook and even on WhatsApp.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
The Delta variant is one of the four variants of concern (VOC) as per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the others being Alpha, Beta and Gamma. The Delta variant of the novel coronavirus was first found in October 2020. It was designated a VOC by the WHO on 11 May.
Vaccination started in India in January, over two months after the variant was found. Therefore, the claim that vaccines caused the variant can’t be true.
It is also incorrect to claim that vaccines cause variants as none of the vaccines used in India contains a live COVID-19 virus.
The vaccines available in the country are adenoviral-based (Sputnik-V and Covishield) or inactivated vaccine (Covaxin). In case of the inactivated vaccine, the virus is inactivated or killed using heat or chemical reactions and that inhibits its ability to replicate thus rendering it harmless.
Variants are caused naturally by random mutations, which occur when the virus replicates and makes copies of itself. Occasionally, small changes creep into the virus copies, which are called mutations. These mutations combine to form a variant.
Since the vaccine does not contain a live virus, it is not possible for it to help in mutation.
In an earlier fact-check article, The Quint's WebQoof team debunked the claim that "mass vaccination efforts cause new COVID-19 variants".
"There is no evidence of any known vaccine causing new or more dangerous variants of COVID-19," the Health Desk, a COVID-19 resource for journalists powered by public health experts, said.
Dr Satyajit Rath, an adjunct faculty of IISER Pune and an immunologist, puts it this way:
"The reality is that as the virus population grows, variations are occurring all the time. The replication machinery of the virus determines the rate of formation of these variations; vaccination will not change that rate."
The WHO has also said that variants will be caused until we check the spread of the virus.
"Reducing transmission through established and proven disease control methods/measures, as well as avoiding introductions into animal populations, are crucial aspects of the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations that have negative public health implications," it said.
Viruses mutate to survive and escape out immune response. The only way to stop mutations is to limit spread of the virus. Vaccines, combined with other COVID-appropriate behaviours, will cut transmission and prevent the virus from mutating and forming new variants.
Evidently, the claim that the Delta variant was caused by the vaccine is false.
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