New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Day after Denmark announced its plans cull more than 15 million minks "to stop mutated COVID-19 spillover to humans", the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said that it is too early to decide whether the coronavirus mutation found in the farmed mink population in Denmark could impact the efficacy of vaccines.

In a statement, the world body said that "coronavirus mutations in minks need to be studied properly before experts can say if there can be any complications and what kind".

"We need to wait and see what the implications are, but I don't think we should come to any conclusions whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy or not. We don't have any evidence at the moment that it would," the WHO said after carrying out a research.

"What we understand is the minks have been infected with contact from humans, it circulates in the mink and then it could pass back to humans. So there's always a concern when you have circulation and transmission from humans to animals and then from animals to humans. So there is a number of activities that are ongoing to understand the situation in Denmark," it added.

The world’s largest producer of mink fur, Denmark, had on Wednesday announced its plans to cull more than 15 million minks after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was detected on mink farms.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen had said that the decision has been made with a "heavy heart," but it was necessary based on the recommendation of health authorities. She said as many 12 people have already contracted the mutated virus and that the mink are now considered a public health risk.

"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well," she told a news conference.

Country’s public health authority, the State Serum Institute, had warned that the virus strain circulating between minks and humans may have mutated enough to compromise future vaccine effectiveness. Denmark's police, army and home guard will be deployed to speed up the culling process, Frederiksen said. Mink have also been culled in the Netherlands and Spain after infections were discovered there. 

Meanwhile, the industry association for Danish mink breeders called the move, which could cost the state more than $800 million, a “black day for Denmark”, and said the government’s decision amounted to a death knell for the country’s pelt industry. 

“Of course, we must not be the cause of a new pandemic. We do not know the professional basis for this assessment and risk ... but the government’s decision is a disaster for the industry and Denmark,” chairman Tage Pedersen told Reuters. In 2019, the mink industry, which employs around 4,000 people, exported nearly $800 million worth of mink skins, totalling around 24.5 million pelts, according to Statistics Denmark.

(with inputs from Reuters)

Posted By: Rakesh Kumar Jha