When will India be free of Covid-19? Virus will become endemic, says top ICMR official
In an indication that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) may not completely go away from the country, a senior official of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Friday that the Covid-19 virus, just like influenza, will subsequently "reach its endemic stage." This means that the virus will "always be present" among a certain population or within a region.
According to Dr Samiran Panda, who heads ICMR's Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, once the virus reaches its endemic stage, annual vaccination may be required. "The Covid-19 virus will reach its endemic stage like influenza after a while. Then, the vulnerable population may have to get vaccinated annually," Dr Panda said. He continued, "Commonly known as flu, influenza was a pandemic 100 years ago but today it is endemic. Similarly, in the case of Covid-19, it is expected that it will gradually become endemic from its current stage of pandemic."
Dr Panda further recommended the elderly to take their flu shots every year. "There is no need to panic. As the influenza virus keeps on mutating, minor changes are made to the vaccine simultaneously," the ICMR official said.
In the backdrop of concerns over a potential third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the top doctor urged those eligible for vaccination to take their shot from among the vaccines available in the country currently, instead of waiting for globally available shots to be cleared by the country's drug regulator. He also urged breastfeeding mothers to take an anti-Covid shot, explaining that "antibodies which develop in a mother due to the vaccine get passively transferred to the baby while breastfeeding."
The vaccines, Dr Panda said, are "absolutely safe for everyone."
India's second Covid-19 wave emerged in late February-early March and was at its peak in April and May. On several days during the peak, the country saw record daily fresh infections and deaths due to the viral disease. The wave has since then receded but fears over a possible third wave remain.
(With ANI inputs)