We are moving towards herd immunity: AIIMS Professor

No need to be panic about the new strain of COVID, it’s not as virulent as the reports are coming in

New Delhi: While the deadly voyage of COVID-19 has been claiming millions of lives for a year across the world, the new strain of the microscopic villain, COVID-19 has raised alarm in many countries, entering into the Indian sub-continent too, where the vaccine is on the brink to be placed. To discuss the new COVID strain and the vaccine conundrum, HEAL HEALTH organized the episode-14 of HEAL-Thy Samvaad in association with ICCIDD.
Speaking on the dynamics of the new strain of COVID-19 during HEAL-Thy Samvaad episode-14, Dr (Prof) Amitav Banerjee, Professor & Head of Community Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Pune, said, “As far as the new strain of COVID-19 is concerned, it’s good for us Indians to follow our own data based on the emerging cases, and do research and don’t rely on the western data and rate of occurrence there. Relying on western data might lead us in trouble as the demographic conditions of India are quite different than those of western countries. The ongoing recovery rate of COVID-19 in India is 99% vis-à-vis the global 97%. It’s nature’s way of adaptations that more lethal or virulent strains do not go far. However, less virulent strains spread wide, bringing asymptomatic and mild cases wherein Herd immunity can develop faster. Therefore, in India, we need to wait and watch and be selective in terms of vaccination and no need to panic because of the new strain of COVID-19.”
While speaking on the nature of the virus and its mutation tendencies, Dr Samiran Panda, Head, Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Division & Director and Scientist of ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) said, “High transmissibility does not necessarily go hand in hand with high virulence. In fact, a virus can be called a smart or a fit virus, while through the process of evolution and mutation, it takes a form when it is capable of getting transmitted easily from one of its hosts to another. However, the same mutant virus also requires its host to remain alive so that it can survive on the host and more specifically the living cells of its host that the virus attaches to and enters. It is important to appreciate at this point that the viruses we are concerned about at this point in the discussion, need living animal or human cells for replication.”
Adding further, he said, “A balanced symbiotic relationship thus evolves over a period of time in which a virus goes from an epidemic existence to an endemic one and with less virulence potential. The respiratory viruses in particular, through this process, attain relevance as seasonal outbreak causing organisms. I haven’t seen yet the reason why SARS-CoV-2 will follow a path different from that described above particularly when its cousins have done the same over and over again. The history recorded by human civilizations in this regard lends support to such an assertion.”
Speaking during HEAL-Thy Samvaad episode-14 on the latest COVID strain and the efficacy and need of vaccination, Dr (Prof) Sanjay Rai, Professor, Dept. of Community Medicine, AIIMS, President, (IPHA) said, “There is no need to be panic about the new strain of COVID, it’s not as virulent as the reports are coming in. Over a period of time, our natural infection will also help protect us. Vaccines in India are about to be placed. Perhaps, we are moving towards Herd immunity because in India the cases are coming down. One of the classical examples is the Dharavi slum of Maharashtra. As far as the number of cases is concerned, it depends upon testing, and testing is very low in India as it’s just 5 thousand here. In the UK, genome sequencing (testing) is 1.4 lakh out of 2.5 lakh of the world.”
Elaborating on the new COVID strain and the vaccine conundrum, Dr J C Suri, Director, Dept. of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi said, “Insofar as the new COVID strain is concerned, it would be more transferable. As of now, we don’t have any evidence to show that it is dangerous. All the strains are also not clinically proven. And I don’t think that vaccine is going to be ineffective. Yes, it’s better to take precaution from the new strain. People should go for institutional quarantine. This variant is not virulent. If it is spreading fast with virulence, it will help India in developing herd immunity.”