The Indian population is still "far away" from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 and everyone should continue following "COVID-appropriate" protocols, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on September 27.
"Indian population is still far from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 as shown by ICMR’s second sero-survey. Hence, all of us should continue following COVID appropriate behaviour," Vardhan said.
The health minister's statement comes on a day when the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement that herd immunity against coronavirus is "not an option".
Vardhan, who was interacting with his social media followers, also said that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is also "investigating and researching" reports of COVID-19 reinfections across the country. While the number of reinfection cases are "negligible", the government is "fully seized of the importance of the matter", the Health Minister said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Vardhan cautioned that the sero-survey report should not create a sense of complacency among the people. He also stressed that masks be worn even in places of worship.
The first sero-survey of May 2020 had revealed that the nationwide prevalence of the novel coronavirus infection was only 0.73 percent.
The health minister also dispelled fears regarding the phased opening of schools, and reiterated proper protocol to be followed while visiting salons and hair spas.
On the wide usage of investigational therapies such as plasma therapy and Remdesivir drug for combating COVID-19, Vardhan said the government has issued regular advisories regarding their rational usage and private hospitals have also been advised against routine use of these therapies.
(With inputs from PTI)Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.