Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has dismissed the idea of “herd immunity” as a strategic option for India in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking at the daily Health Ministry briefing on July 30, Bhushan was categorically stated that India’s large population meant an outcome like that would come at a “very high cost.”
“No, it is not (a strategic option), in a country like India, with a population of roughly 138 crore (people), it can only be an outcome, at a very high cost,” he said.
Bhushan further explained that since herd immunity relied on indirect protection from infectious diseases such as COVID-19, the same would only be possible when a large number of the population becomes immune or once vaccination is complete. He instead advised “sustained COVID-19 appropriate behaviours” to combat the spread.
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Bhushan also spoke about the progress of two indigenous vaccines, stating that they are under Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. Testing for these is being conducted with over 1,000 subjects each.
“The Health Ministry has begun to actively engage with stakeholders within and outside the government to prioritise distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines, if and when they become available,” he said. Adding that there is “near unanimity on the need to administer COVID-19 vaccine on a much larger scale than other vaccines” in India.
“Apart from questions regarding logistics, this poses many ethical questions which are still being deliberated upon within the central government,” he added.
Besides, the indigenous vaccines, India is also a member of and plays a leading role in both the Gavi and CEPI vaccine projects, Bhushan noted. “A dedicated facility called COVAX for vaccines has been developed under this, along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI),” he shared.Follow our full COVID-19 coverage here