Daijiworld Media Network - New Delhi
New Delhi, Feb 21: The director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria stated that herd immunity is just a 'myth' in India as over 80 per cent of people need to produce antibodies for the country's population to be protected against coronavirus. "Achieving herd immunity is difficult if one takes into account the new Indian strains found in Maharashtra, which could be highly transmissible and dangerous. The new variant can even cause re-infections in people who have developed antibodies to the virus," Guleria was quoted in a report by NDTV.
Lately, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Maharashtra have reported an increase in the number of coronavirus infections.
The government's vaccination plan depends on creating herd immunity by vaccinating a majority of the population. In the first phase of vaccination 3 crore health workers and frontline workers are to be immunised. Following that, it will be 27 crore people who are 50 years of age or have co-morbidities.
"Mutations or variants in the virus have an immune escape mechanism. They can threaten the immunity achieved by a person through vaccinations or the disease and cause reinfection," Dr Guleria gave reasons as to why herd immunity is not possible. He also stressed the importance of following 'Covid-appropriate behaviour.'
"India needs to go back to aggressive measures of testing, contact tracing and isolating infections," Dr Guleria said.
Responding to whether Covid vaccines in India are effective against the new strain, Dr Guleria said the vaccines will be effective, but their efficacy might be less. For example, people might not be able to avoid getting the disease, but they will have a mild version of it. Regular surveillance data is the key to knowing if vaccines need to be modified to fight the new variant strains. In the coming months, there could be changes made to the vaccines.
However, Dr Guleria emphasized that getting the vaccine is a must. On Saturday, the Centre announced that over 1.07 crore vaccine doses have been administered so far to health workers and frontline workers.