COVID-19 herd immunity not an option for population size like India: Health ministry

Updated: Jul 30, 2020, 18:44 IST | mid-day online correspondent | New Delhi

India will have to rely on a vaccine to beat the coronavirus, says health ministry

Health workers screen people for the symptoms of novel Coronavirus at Khar Danda slum. File pics/Shadab Khan
Health workers screen people for the symptoms of novel Coronavirus at Khar Danda slum. File pics/Shadab Khan

Even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in India, the health ministry on Thursday said that India cannot count on herd immunity to stop the pandemic given its demography and scale and the country will have to rely on a vaccine to beat the deadly virus.

"Herd immunity is an indirect protection from a disease. This saves a population from a disease. But it develops when a vaccine is developed or when a population has already suffered and recovered from it. Herd immunity in India is not an option. It can only happen after a vaccine has been developed," said Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health, at a press conference in New Delhi.

Herd immunity is a situation when the spread of a disease is stopped naturally when enough of the population becomes resistant to the virus and not enough people are able to transmit it.

India is the third worst-hit nation by the pandemic. The total number of COVID-19 cases reported till date is 15,83,792 and the number of people who recovered from the virus stands at 10,20,582.

A total of 52,123 cases of COVID-19 infection across India was reported in the last 24 hours, stated the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday pointing out that more than 70 per cent of deaths are "due to comorbidities".

At 3.6 per cent, India's rate of increase in cases is double than the United States. Till date, a total 34,968 people have lost their lives to the virus that originated from China's Wuhan and gripped the entire world.

Bhushan further said that more than 1 million people have recovered and discharged till now. "More than 1 million people have recovered from COVID-19 in the country. This landmark recovery has been achieved because of the selfless work and dedication of our doctors, nurses and frontline workers," he said.

Giving the number of cured persons, Bhushan said, "More than 1,020,000 patients have recovered. They have been discharged. It is a great achievement."

He said, "The recovery rate has shown positive trends. It was 7.85 per cent in April and today it is 64.4 per cent, which is another heartening news which tells us that whatever battle is put by the Union government in collaboration with state governments is showing results."

He said effective clinical management lead to a decrease in case fatality rate. In June it was 3.33 per cent and now 2.21 per cent. Bhushan said the case fatality rate in India today is 2.21 per cent and it's among the lowest in the world. Twenty-four states and Union Territories have lesser fatality rate than that of the country.

"Over 18,190,000 tests have been conducted in the country including RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests. There has been a week-on-week increase in average tests per day. India is conducting 324 test per 10 lakhs population per day," Bhushan said.

He added, three vaccine candidates, are in phase 3 clinical trial. These three are in the US, UK and China. In India, two indigenously developed vaccine candidates are in phase I and II of clinical trials. Trial of the first vaccine involves 1,150 subjects at eight sites, second on 1,000 subjects at five sites.

He further 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."

He said that whenever the Covid-19 vaccine will come, it will be administered on a much larger scale compared to the existing vaccines. "This is something on which there is near unanimity," the Health Secretary said.

On Wednesday, the Home Ministry issued guidelines for the 'Unlock 3.0', which will come into effect from August 1.

According to the guidelines, restrictions on movement of individuals during night have been scrapped, and yoga institutes and gymnasiums have been allowed to open from August 5.

(With inputs from agencies)

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