Covid herd immunity not a strategic option, says India


India’s health ministry Thursday said that herd immunity against Covid-19 cannot be a strategic option in a nation the size of India and this can only be achieved through immunization in the future.

India’s health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told the media: “Herd immunity is an indirect protection from a disease. In a country the size of India, it cannot be a strategic choice or option. It can only be achieved through immunization but that is in the future.”

He said that the ministry, too, believes that the herd immunity is far in the future and hence, it is important to adopt Covid-appropriate behavior.

The remarks came at a time India has logged over 1.5 million coronavirus cases and continues to have the fastest growth rate of infection.

The health ministry, however, iterated that there is no community spread in the country and that there are merely clusters of cases and pockets of localized transmission.

Bhushan said that a million people had recovered from Covid-19 in India and the recovery rate was increasing.

In April first week, the rate of recovery was 7.85 percent, in June, it increased to 48.31 percent and 64.44 percent in July. Recoveries are 1.9 times the number of active cases,” he said.

The highest numbers of recovered patients are in Delhi, Ladakh, Haryana, Assam, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

There was also a decrease in the percentage of active cases and deaths due to Covid-19, Bhushan said, crediting effective clinical management. “In June, the fatality rate was 3.33 percent and now it is 2.21 percent and continuously decreasing.”

If compared to other countries… barring Russia, all the major countries have a case fatality rate six-seven times more than India. It is the lowest in the world as compared to the developed western countries or neighborhood countries,” Bhushan stressed.

Assam, Kerala, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Goa and Jharkhand have fatality rates of less than 1 percent.

Bhushan said that testing infrastructure has also increased and almost one crore tests were conducted in the span of the last one month. “In July first week, cumulative numbers were 88 lakh [8.8 million] and now 1,81,90,382 tests have been done.”

Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have positivity rates — the percentage of people who test positive compared to the overall number tested — of less than 5 percent, while Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Odisha and Karnataka have more than 10 percent positivity rate.

Quoting the World Health Organization, Bhushan said there are 24 vaccine candidates which are in clinical evaluation in the world and there are 141 vaccine candidates in pre-evaluation stage.

Three are in phase three clinical trials — in the US, the UK, China. In India, phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trial of two indigenously developed vaccines have commenced. One trial is being conducted on 1,150 subjects at eight sites. The other is being tested on 1,000 subjects at 5 sites.”

He said that India has not signed any agreement with any vaccine manufacturing company.

We have had discussions on vaccine distribution. There are various stakeholders within government and outside and the ministry has started actively engaging with them.”


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