Herd Immunity Very Difficult To Achieve In India, Amid COVID Variants: AIIMS Director

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New Delhi: Herd immunity is very difficult to achieve and one should not think of it in practical terms in India, especially in the times of variant strains of COVID-19 and waning immunity, said AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria on Sunday.

He was speaking at the ongoing edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in a session on his book “Till We Win: India’s Fight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic” co-authored by public policy and health systems expert Chandrakant Lahariya and renowned vaccine researcher and virologist Gagandeep Kang.

“Herd immunity is something that is going to be very, very difficult to achieve and it is something one should not really think of in practical terms… because the variant strains and varying immunity with times can lead to a chance where people may have reinfection or get the infection again,” the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director said. “And one should also remember that large number of people have had mild infections and we do know that those with mild infection tend to have less antibodies production, their antibodies tend to wane over a period of time,” he was quoted as saying by News18.com.

Brazil’s example

Guleria also gave the example of Brazilian city Manaus, which even after having achieved herd immunity in October is now battling the second COVID-19 wave. “They (Brazil) had claimed that they got heard immunity with almost 70 per cent of the population being protected because of the past infection, and yet because of the Brazilian variant and waning immunity, a large number of people got infected again. And now they are in a very bad situation because of resurgence of cases,” he noted.

Sero Surveys

He also asserted that no sero surveys done so far has suggested India being “anyway near” achieving herd immunity. Over 21 per cent of the population, aged 10 years and above, showed evidence of past exposure to COVID-19 in the Indian Council of Medical Research”s (ICMR) latest national sero-survey out on February 4.

Vaccination

Guleria said vaccination is essential in India’s fight against the coronavirus. They too will change with time tackling not only the “emerging variants” but giving more robust immunity lasting for a longer period of time, he was quoted as saying.

“What we have today is not the only vaccine, we will have better vaccines as time moves on and as research moves on. But right now we should take what we have if we want to really make sure that the situation in our country does not deteriorate,” he added.

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