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No one’s safe until. : Scientist on ways Covid pandemic can evolve

No one is safe until all are vaccinated, Johns Hopkins scientist Amita Gupta said while pointing out that more new variants are likely to emerge if everyone doesn’t have access to the vaccine. “Vaccine inequity remains an issue both within India,” she said adding, that 56 countries are unable to inoculate even 10 percent of their people.

Making her point, she said, the highly transmissible Omicron variant is believed to have emerged in November last year in South Africa and Botswana due to inadequate immunisation in African countries before spreading globally.

As immunities wane and new Covid variants emerge, it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and boosted, she said.

“It is not enough to fully vaccinate only a few countries. Health workers and highest-risk populations in all countries must be fully vaccinated to stop the pandemic,” she added.

Speaking about an India-specific problem, she said, Gupta said, there are some hard to reach areas and there is urgent need to increase booster vaccination for those who are eligible.

“Less than 2 per cent of the population (in India) currently has received a Covid booster even though there is no shortage of supply. This number needs to increase.”

No one is safe until…
Whether another mutation can increase or decrease the intrinsic virulence of the virus or the severity, is hard to predict, public health expert said

“What we do know is that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone in the world is safe. The vast majority of vaccines have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Fifty-six countries have been effectively excluded from the global vaccine marketplace and have not been able to vaccinate even 10 per cent of their population,” she added.

Vaccines against Omicron variant
Studies have shown that current Covid vaccines have had some reduction in efficacy in protecting people from infection and from developing severe disease with Omicron and its sub-variants.

Vaccines, Gupta stressed, are still reducing risk of severe disease in over 50 per cent of those who get the infection.

“A lot of work is ongoing to prepare newer vaccines to optimise efficacy in preparation for additional new variants.”

Many experts in the past have said that Covid in India was moving towards endemicity, a stage when the presence of a disease becomes steady in a particular region or at least predictable.

There are three possible future
“There are three possible futures: ongoing peaks of high disease and evolution of the virus with increased infection rate, seasonal epidemic COVID-19, and endemic COVID-19. We are not yet at a place where we can say COVID is endemic,” Gupta explained.

For future pandemics, Gupta said it is crucial to apply the lessons learned from Covid and invest in health infrastructure to better equip the country to prevent tragedy. Live Mint

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