As the nation is relying on herd immunity to achieve protection for all citizens, experts say this is impossible to be attained in India because a minimum of 80% of the entire population needs to have antibodies for the rest to stay safe.
The “myth” regarding herd immunity was busted by Dr. Randeep Guleria who told NDTV on Saturday that with the new strains of viruses being detected in Maharashtra and other parts of India, achieving protection for all through this means could be very difficult as the new variant is all the more transmissible and dangerous. The new mutant holds the potential to re-infect people who were previously infected and even treated.
The recent increase in the number of cases in the country are due to the 240 new strains of coronavirus, Dr Shahshank Joshi, a member of Maharashtra’s Covid Task Force said.
Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, too, are reporting a surge in the number of infections.
The government wants to attain herd immunity by its vaccination drive, where the majority of the people get inoculated against the virus. According to its plan, 3 crore healthcare workers and frontline servicemen will be vaccinated first followed by 27 crore people who fall either under the above 50 years category or co-morbidities group.
Dr. Guleria said that the reason getting herd immunity isn’t feasible is due to the mutants of the virus having an “immune escape mechanism”. This can threaten the already existing immunity of a person attained by vaccinations or the disease itself and cause reinfection.
He stressed upon the importance of maintaining “covid-appropriate behaviour” in view of the situation.
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“India needs to go back to aggressive measures of testing, contact tracing and isolating infections,” he said.
The current vaccines will be effective against the new variants but can provide lesser protection, the doctor said while adding that though the vaccine will not protect a person from getting infected, he will have a milder variant of it.
Surveillance data collection from time to time is vital to understand the power of vaccines and whether or not they need changes to battle the mutant virus.
However, Dr. Guleria said that it is imperative to get the vaccine administered.
According to government reports, over 1.07 crore doses of covid-19 vaccine have been administered to healthcare workers and frontline workers.