Government says Herd Immunity not an option for India

Rajesh Bhushan, OSD, Ministry of Health (File Pic)

The government has clearly spelled out that Herd Immunity cannot be considered as an effective strategy to deal with coronavirus pandemic in a populous country like India. 

The ministry explained that herd immunity is an indirect protection building technique against the COVID causing virus.  According to the ministry, in India herd immunity can only be formulated after a vaccine is rolled out, otherwise, it’s not an option.

“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,” Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health said, adding that India can hope to achieve herd immunity only after a vaccine has been developed.

 Technically, Herd immunity refers to a  stage where enough people become resistant to disease as they have been already exposed to it and their bodies have developed antigens against it.

 The Health Ministry fears that depending on developing herd immunity without a vaccine would bear a big cost for India causing great loss of lives. “Seeing that India’s population is around 138 crore, achieving herd immunity would require crores of people to get sick, which will cripple the health infrastructure, leading to numerous deaths,” the health ministry official said.

Thus the Ministry reinforced that without a vaccine, they cannot simply endanger people’s lives by allowing them to expose themselves to the virus in order to build herd immunity. 

Vaccines generate herd immunity as they are clinically developed and pre-tested and thus ensures the safety of the citizens. Most vaccines contains weakened or killed viruses, it helps the human body to develop immunity against the particular virus strain.

The concerns were raised on herd immunity to be a potentially effective strategy after the Sero-surveillance report from Maharashtra suggested that higher exposure to the virus in slum areas is helping to bring down the infection fatality rate and help people build immunity against the virus.

Also Read: Malls to reopen in Maharashtra even as lockdown extended till Aug 31, Sero-Surveillance shows anti-bodies in high percentage of slum population

Earlier a month ago Sweden’s Prime Minister chose herd immunity to be the right strategy for the country and did not impose many restrictions. The health authority now suggests that the infection and mortality rate is consistently declining in the country.

Thus, the possibility of India developing herd immunity doesn’t sound absurd. Hence the Health ministry also considered that India may achieve herd immunity against coronavirus one day.”The Health Ministry thinks it’s possible in future but for now we’ve to follow Covid appropriate behaviour,” Rajesh Bhushan said.

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