COVID-19 Herd Immunity Not An Option In A Country Like India, Says Centre

COVID-19 Herd Immunity Not An Option In A Country Like India, Says Centre

At 3.6 per cent, India’s rate of increase in coronavirus cases is double than the US.

New Delhi:

India cannot count on herd immunity to stop the coronavirus pandemic given its demography and scale, the Health Ministry said on Thursday, adding that the country will have to rely on a vaccine to fully beat COVID-19.

“Herd immunity is an indirect protection from a disease. This saves a population from a disease. But it develops when a vaccine is developed or when a population has already suffered and recovered from it. Herd immunity in India is not an option. It can only happen after a vaccine has been developed,” a Health Ministry official said at a news conference.

Herd immunity refers to the situation when the spread of a disease is stopped naturally when enough of the population becomes resistant to the virus and not enough people are able to transmit it.

India crossed 15 lakh coronavirus cases this week and continues to have the fastest rate of growth in infections among the five worst-hit countries.

At 3.6 per cent, India’s rate of increase in cases is more than double than the 1.6 per cent in US and significantly higher than Brazil’s 2.3 per cent – the only two countries with a higher caseload.

For months, the government has highlighted India’s recovery rate but for a disease with a less than 4 per cent fatality rate worldwide, the recovery rate is not the best metric to measure the effect of the pandemic, experts have said.

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Hopes for herd immunity were raised this week when a medical survey of nearly 7,000 people in Mumbai found that 57 per cent of the people who live in the city’s cramped slums have had COVID-19 and most are asymptomatic or have recovered.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s fatality rate has come down from 3.3 per cent on June 18 to 2.21 per cent on Thursday. On an average, 4.68 lakh tests have been conducted in the last four days, it said.

The ministry also said that 21 states have less than a 10 per cent positivity rate. Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have a positivity rate of less than 5 per cent, it added.

The Health Ministry said there are currently 24 vaccine candidates that are in clinical evaluation stage in the world. Two vaccines being developed in India are currently in Phase 1 and 2 of trials to test if they are safe for humans.

“There are three vaccines that are in Phase 3 [the final stage to check their efficacy] clinical trials. One in UK, one in US and one in China. This means if they pass, they will seek the nod of concerned authorities and manufacturing and distribution will begin,” it added.

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