Health ministry makes it clear: India is far from achieving COVID-19 herd immunity
Deccan Chronicle| DC Web Desk
Till a vaccine comes up, following COVID-appropriate behaviour is the social vaccine against the disease: Official
Kolkata under lockdown. (PTI)
New Delhi: As overall cases of coronavirus in India crossed 16 lakh on Thursday and close to 5.5 lakh persons still remain under treatment for the infection, the Union health ministry urged people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour till a vaccine is developed as the country is far from achieving any herd immunity.
"Given the size of India's population, herd immunity cannot be a strategic choice or option but can only be an outcome, and that too at a very high cost as it means lakhs of people would have to be infected, get hospitalised and many would die in the process," said Rajesh Bhushan, Officer on Special Duty in Union health ministry.
Bhushan said that in India, herd immunity can be achieved through immunisation but that will be in the future. "Are we approaching herd immunity? The health ministry believes it is still far away and in the future. For now, we have to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, following hand hygiene and maintaining distance from others. Till a vaccine comes up, following COVID-appropriate behaviour is the social vaccine against the disease," the OSD said.
The Phase 1 and 2 of human clinical trials for the two India developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates have started in India but the vaccine is not expected anytime before January 2021. The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by University of Oxford is showing hope as it elicited an immune response and reduced the viral load in monkeys exposed to SARS-CoV-2 virus, said a study published in the science journal Nature. The researchers have found that the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine protects the macaques from COVID-19 pneumonia -- a complication of SARS-CoV-2 infection in which the lungs become inflamed and may fill with fluid.
According to scientists, herd immunity against COVID-19 in India is likely to be achieved only in pockets given the many socio-economic groups in the country and may be short-lived rather than long-lasting.
According to COVID19India.org, India till Thursday evening had over 16 lakh total cases and over 35000 deaths. Health ministry officials said that "historic" figures like 15 or 16 lakh have no meaning when the active cases are only 5, 28, 242 and the number of recovered persons is 1.9 times higher – 10, 20, 582. The recovery rate has increased from 7.85 per cent in April to 64.44 per cent on Thursday and for the 7th consecutive day, more than 30,000 recoveries were recorded.
Officials said 21 states and Union Territories have a case positivity rate less than 10 per cent, while in four it is less than five per cent. The COVID-19 positivity rate in Rajasthan is 3.5 per cent, Punjab 3.9 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 4 per cent, and Jammu and Kashmir 4.7 per cent.
The OSD said that effective clinical management has led to a decline in COVID-19 case fatality rate from 3.33 per cent on June 18 to 2.21 per cent on July 30. The government has enhanced the testing infrastructure, resulting in an average of 4,68,263 COVID-19 tests every day between July 26 and 30.