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Herd immunity as coronavirus strategy too risky for India: CSIR DG

Relying on developing herd immunity to fight coronavirus is "too large a risk" for any nation and only timely interventions can contain the spread of deadly virus, says Shekhar Mande, Director General of CSIR

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | May 31, 2020 | Updated 18:48 IST
Herd immunity as coronavirus strategy too risky for India: CSIR DG
India's total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged past 1.82 lakh on May 31, the last day of over a two-month-long lockdown

As focus shifts from 'lockdown' to 'economic revival', herd immunity has emerged as a talking point among people who argue that it is the only possible solution to fight COVID-19 pandemic. In contract, some experts believe that it's neither effective against coronavirus pandemic nor a viable option for a large nation like India.

According to Shekhar Mande, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), relying on developing herd immunity to fight coronavirus is "too large a risk" for any nation and only timely interventions can contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Replying to a question on whether it is viable for India to achieve herd immunity, Mande said, "It is too large a risk for any nation."

"Herd immunity typically works when 60-70 per cent population of a country has been affected and it's too large a risk to take for any nation. What one would do is to take intervention before so that the infection does not spread," he told PTI in an interview.

Herd immunity is also called community immunity and herd or group protection. It occurs when a 60 per cent of the community is deemed immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely. This can happen when many people contract the disease and in time build up an immune response to it (natural immunity). It may also occur that many people are vaccinated against the disease to achieve immunity.

Since no vaccine has been developed so far to protect the human body against the COVID-19, the population will have to develop resistance against coronavirus in a natural way, i.e through herd immunity.

Also Read: Coronavirus India Live Updates: Big part of economy open now, need to be more careful, says PM Modi; total cases-1.82 lakh

The CSIR head said several theoretical modelling that people have conducted across the world and also in India seem to suggest that there could be few waves of COVID-19 and people need to be prepared for them.

"The number of cases will go down and people need to be prepared as there can be a second wave of COVID-19," he said.

He further said that the CSIR has adopted a five-pronged approach in the fight against COVID-19 focusing on, "surveillance, diagnostic, intervention through development of new therapies, hospital assistive devices and supply chain model."

On the vaccine development front, he said three different approaches are being adopted.

"One is an immune boosting vaccine that improves the host's immunity -- that is under trial in three different locations in the country and the results are expected in the next 15 days."

Also Read: Sweden: The world champion of 'herd immunity' in fight against coronavirus

"Another one is monoclonal antibody that CSIR has funded a collaborative programme between NCCS (National Centre For Cell Science) Pune, IIT Indore and Bharat Biotech. Third one is convalescent plasma therapy whose trials are going on in Kolkata," he said.

He further said that Indian companies are "very deeply involved" in the process of vaccine development.

With a record 8,380 fresh cases, and 193 deaths in the last 24 hours, India's total count of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged past 1.82 lakh on May 31, the last day of over a two-month-long lockdown. The total number of coronavirus cases now stand at 1,82,143, including 89,995 active cases, 86,984 recoveries, and 5,164 deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry.

The Centre on Saturday announced a phased exit from the over two-months-long lockdown ending May 31 while extending it till June 30. The first phase called 'Unlock 1' will unlock the country barring the containment zones. The lockdown 5.0 guidelines will come into effect on June 1. World over, the tally has mounted to 6.05 million with the United States continuing to be the worst-hit nation. The researchers across the globe are pacing up to find a coronavirus vaccine as the COVID-19 cases continue to surge across countries.

With PTI inputs

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