Union Health Minister: Herd immunity no option given the country's size

Published: Jul 31, 2020, 10:00 IST | Agencies | New Delhi

Union health minister, Harsh Vardhan says over the next two months, number of COVID-19 samples tested daily will increase to 10L from the current 5L

A woman buys rakhi from a vendor along a street at Sadar Bazar wholesale market ahead of Raksha Bandhan festival, in New Delhi on Thursday. PIC/AFP
A woman buys rakhi from a vendor along a street at Sadar Bazar wholesale market ahead of Raksha Bandhan festival, in New Delhi on Thursday. PIC/AFP

Given the size of India's population, herd immunity "cannot be a strategic choice or option", the health ministry said on Thursday as it urged people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour till a vaccine is developed. At a press briefing, when asked whether India was approaching herd immunity against the infection, Officer on Special Duty in the Health Ministry, Rajesh Bhushan replied that herd immunity is a kind of indirect protection from an infectious disease like COVID-19. It happens only when a population becomes immune either through vaccination or immunity is developed through a previous infection, he said.

"In a country with the size of the population like India, herd immunity cannot be a strategic choice or option. It can only be an outcome, and that too at a very high cost as it means lakhs of people would have to be infected, get hospitalised and many would die in the process," Bhushan said. "Are we approaching herd immunity? The health ministry believes it still far away and in the future.

For now, we have to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, following hand hygiene and maintaining do gaz ki doori (maintaining distance of two yards)," the OSD said. "Till a vaccine comes up, following COVID-appropriate behaviour is the social vaccine against the disease." The officer also said Phase 1 and 2 human clinical trials of two indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine candidates have started. Bhushan also said the government has so far received 131 claims under the `50 lakh COVID-19 insurance scheme for healthcare providers and payments have already been made in 20 cases.

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