Achieving herd immunity against coronavirus in India is "difficult", said Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), on February 20.
The new strains of COVID-19, which are feared to be responsible for the recent spike in Maharashtra, "could be more infectious", the country's top doctor told NDTV.
The mutated version of the virus could "escape" through the immune system developed by the body. In such a scenario, maintaining COVID-19-approporiate behaviour is of utmost necessity to reduce the pace of transmission, Dr Guleria stressed.
On being asked whether the vaccines can prevent infection through the evolved strains, the AIIMS chief said it cannot be estimated how effective the jabs would be against the mutated versions of COVID-19.
Those administered with the vaccine, however, are likely to be diagnosed with only mild symptoms if they are infected by the new strains of virus, Dr Guleria said, adding that vaccination is an essential step in the fight against the pandemic.
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India has so far vaccinated over 1.08 crore benefeciaries, including more than 72 lakh health workers. The country is expected to shortly launch the next phase of vaccination drive, which aims to cover 27 crore persons who are aged above 50 or suffer with comorbidites.
According to Dr Guleria, the focus should also be on detecting new strains of the virus to prevent cluster outbreaks. Genome sequencing of samples, combined with effective collection and analysis of data will boost the efforts to curb the rate of transmission, he added.