COVID-19 in India may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity where there is low or moderate level of transmission going on, Chief Scientist of the World Health Organisation Dr Soumya Swaminathan said.
The endemic stage is when a population learns to live with a virus. It’s very different from the epidemic stage when the virus overwhelms a population.
On clearance to Covaxin, she said she is fairly confident that the WHO’s technical group will be satisfied to give Covaxin clearance to be one of its authorised vaccines and that could happen by mid-September.
In an interview to journalist Karan Thapar for news website The Wire, Ms Swaminathan said given the size of India and heterogeneity of population and immunity status in different parts of the country, it is “very very feasible” that the situation may continue like this with ups and downs in various parts of the nation.
“We may be entering some kind of stage of endemicity where there is low level transmission or moderate level transmission going on but we are not seeing the kinds of exponential growth and peaks that we saw a few months ago,” Ms Swaminathan said.
She said she hopes that by the end of 2022 “we would be in that position that we have achieved vaccine coverage, say 70 per cent, and then countries can get back to normal”.
On prevalence of Covid among children, Ms Swaminathan said parents need not panic.
“We can take from the sero survey and what we learnt from other countries also that while it is possible that children could get infected and transmit, children luckily have very mild illness most of the time and there is a small percentage that gets sick and get inflammatory complications and few will die but much much less than the adult population.”
On use of drugs like Remdesivir, HCQ or Ivermectin for treatment, she said as of now, there is no evidence that HCQ or Ivermectin have any role to play in reducing mortality or morbidity in people infected with the virus or actually preventing people from getting infection, so therefore there are no grounds on which recommendations can be made in use of either of these drugs for treatment or prevention.
“Drugs like Dexamethasone and Oxygen are the two essential ones that save lives,” she added.
On clearance to Covaxin, she said the decision can be made hopefully by mid-September.
“It will be impossible to predict when, where the third wave will be upon us and if at all a third wave will come. However, you can make an educated guess on some of the variables that have an impact on transmission,” she said.
On booster doses, she said there are both scientific and moral, and ethical reasons for not rushing into boosters.
“…so it would also be in self interest of countries who have excess doses now to send those doses out through Covax to countries that desperately need them,” she said.
On vaccine passport concept, she said, “We do not believe that vaccination has to be a prerequisite at least at the global level to do things like travelling because we haven’t given everyone an opportunity to get vaccinated.”