WHO Chief Scientist Says Covid Third Wave May Not Be As Bad As Second

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Aug 17, 2021 06:56 PM +05:30 IST
WHO Chief Scientist Says Covid Third Wave May Not Be As Bad As Second Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO (Image: WHO)
  • There is no way to know for sure whether another wave will occur and when, and if the third wave occurs, it may not be as bad as the second wave, says WHO's chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan.

When healthcare professionals and Indian states are preparing for the third coronavirus wave, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there is no way to know for sure whether another wave will occur and when. She also believes that if the third wave occurs, it may not be as bad as the second wave.

Last week, the Health Ministry approved the allocation of around Rs 7,200 crore to prepare for the possible Covid-19 third wave, which is half of the centre's share of the emergency response package announced in July. But the WHO expert claimed that "what we will see is a continuing transmission state with localised ups and downs in places as the virus moves through a population looking for more people to infect... I don't anticipate that we will get another wave like the second wave," reported BusinessLine.

She also noted that after the second wave, the Covid-19 figure settled at around 35,000 to 40,000 instances each day, and it has been that way for several weeks.

However, the level of population immunity, heterogeneity across the country with more than 40 crore people vulnerable to infection, possibilities for the virus in crowds, and the possibility of a variant are all factors that could affect a possible third wave. The surge in the second wave was induced by the Delta variant.

According to a serosurvey conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), roughly 65 per cent of people in India have been exposed to the virus, and about 30 per cent have got at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine. So, Swaminathan said that "there is some amount of immunity in the population, which should be beneficial".

But after facing a deadly second wave, the centre is now focusing on medical infra, medical buffer stock, and O2 availability as priority areas under the emergency response package to avoid possible shortages. The health ministry is preparing against the baseline of the peak of coronavirus caseloads in May, as well as the challenges that Delta and Delta Plus variants may present.

However, Swaminathan also said last week that the UN health agency had a discussion over booster vaccines. There was no sign that vaccinated people were suddenly getting sick in nations that started vaccination in December or January, such as the United Kingdom, Israel, as well as the United States, and hence there is no genuine reason to rush for booster doses in the general population, Swaminathan added.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have approved a third dose for immunosuppressed patients after research revealed that they do not produce antibody responses after two doses. But the WHO scientist explained the circumstances and said that the third dose "is part of the primary series and not a booster dose".

As reported recently, the chairman and managing director of Bharat Biotech, Dr Krishna Ella, said that the company is working on a combination of Covaxin and a nasal vaccination that, if given, can act as a booster dose and keep a person from getting infected by the novel virus. As the decision to approve or disapprove it is up to the government, the Hyderabad-based company's executive stated that required data would be forwarded to the authorities.

Meanwhile, The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved a study in India that would combine Covaxin and Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccines. Christian Medical College, Vellore, will perform this investigation and associated clinical trials. In this case, Swaminathan stated that the trials to investigate the effects of mixing two jabs would help obtain more data that could be used to make policy decisions.

Additionally, she said that "the advantages of mixing and matching is that if you run out of supply you can rely on different vaccines". Currently, there is not much evidence regarding vaccines cocktails, but according to her, there is a chance that different vaccine platforms will stimulate the immune system in different ways, which could be beneficial.

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