Many doctors believe that Covid-19 will not be eliminated anytime soon, but will become endemic.
New Delhi: Despite the fact that India has reached the milestone of administering 100-crore Covid-19 vaccination doses, the country is seeing an upsurge in Covid-19 cases. The new varieties are expected to be more transmissible than previous variants, yet persons who have been fully vaccinated may only suffer mild symptoms from the virus. Many persons who have been vaccinated have contracted the virus, resulting in a continuous increase in positive cases.
“In India, there is a high chance that the vaccinated people may contract Covid-19, but the severity of the virus is moderate. In some cases, fully vaccinated people have developed mild to moderate symptoms of Covid-19. So, the severity of the disease will be slightly lower than the last two outbreaks,” Dr Debayan Mallik, the in-charge of the rural health centre of the JIMS hospital, Kolkata, told this newspaper.
Similarly, Dr Mitesh Patel from the Government Eye Hospital, Civil Hospital Campus, Ahmedabad, said, “Many vaccinated people are also infected by the virus but they have low morbidity and mild illness, which don’t require any hospitalization. So, it is possible that after the vaccination, there is a chance of getting infected by Covid-19, but it may be less severe.”
Many doctors believe that Covid-19 will not be eliminated anytime soon. Dr Bharesh Dedhia, Chief, Critical Care at P.D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, Khar, said, “I don’t think Covid-19 will ever be eliminated; instead, it will become endemic, much like the common cold and seasonal flu. We may notice breakthrough cases as well as ones that continue to occur after vaccination. However, unlike the non-vaccinated groups, the vast majority of them are mild cases, with just a handful of the vaccinated individuals ending up in hospital.”
Further, he said, “According to one study from the United States, around 80-90% of unvaccinated people are currently hospitalized, with barely five or ten per cent from the vaccinated group. So, while vaccination effectiveness is not 100%, it is estimated to be between 75-80%. And, for the remainder, it does, to a significant part, diminish the severity of sickness. No vaccination has ever been proven to be 100% effective. So, what we are doing now is a positive step towards finishing the pandemic, and as a result, it may become endemic, and we may see some seasonal cases such as swine flu and other seasonal issues.”
However, some doctors believe that massive vaccination drive will result in achieving herd immunity soon. Dr Patel is of the opinion that the elimination of the virus will be difficult, but the virus may turn out to be endemic. Since the vaccination has strengthened the immunity system, people may develop mild or asymptomatic symptoms against the virus.
Asked about the transmissible rate of the new variants, Dr Mallik said, “We are expecting it to be much more transmissible than the Delta variant. Since we have detected the virus at an early stage, it is too soon to report anything on its severity rate amongst the unvaccinated people or the people having only the first dose of vaccines. Also, people who have been reported Covid-19 negative after coming in contact with the people having delta plus variant must be kept under observation for seven days. It is important to reevaluate as we don’t know the effects of the newer variant. It may be possible that the symptoms will show later on or the virus will multiply slowly. So, it is possible that these people may come out positive later.”
However, Dr Dedhia said, “I don’t think the transmissibility is substantially higher; it could be 10 per cent or 15 per cent more transmissible than the original variant, but I don’t think it’s much less transmissible. So, I believe we must continue to be vigilant.”
The rapid mutation is resulting in the slow evolution of the virus. As per the recent record by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), Delta variants (B.1.617.2 and AY.x) continues to be the main Variant Of Concern (VOC) in India. It has also been reported that AY.4.2 is ‘very infrequent’ (below 0.1%) in India. Asked whether more variants will be evolving, Dr Patel said, “These variants evolve so that they can survive in our environment. For the survival of any living organisms, they change their structure, so it will be a continuous process.”
Since the festive season is around the corner, the doctors are advising to follow the Covid-19 guidelines as recommended by the government of India. Dr Dedhia advised, “There is still the possibility of a third wave, especially if a new variety becomes dominant and offers far greater transmissibility than the current variant. As a result, we must continue to act as though we are in the midst of a pandemic, wear masks, avoid crowded locations, and maintain some social distance. It is primarily the duty of all of us ordinary citizens to maintain civic sensibility, and we cannot continue to blame the government for this pandemic. We are accountable for worsening the pandemic. So, I believe we must continue to be vigilant.”