Findings from ICMR’s latest national serosurvey that 68% of Indians may have developed Covid antibodies calls for energetic measures to avert a third wave while we still have time. In absolute numbers, it means close to a billion Indians, a mind-boggling figure, may have already been exposed to the virus. However, the antibodies can wane over time which requires that the pace of vaccination needs to step up to keep community immunity levels high. Masking, the other most potent virus suppression method, must also be strictly enforced.
ICMR has also cautioned that the serosurvey findings must not be extrapolated to draw conclusions at the district and state levels. Those collecting samples have also reported great difficulty in getting volunteers from gated communities and middle-class neighbourhoods. The high incidence in Kerala, Maharashtra and Northeast shows that every part of India must continue to maintain a state of high vigil lest they get surprised again, as had happened during the second wave.
With the conversation shifting to booster shots abroad, ICMR must commission more studies on the duration of persistence of immunity after infection and vaccination. More efforts must also be made to rope in the foreign mRNA vaccines for production in India as part of widening the vaccine bouquet. The pace at which this virus has travelled through the population is a warning of how porous our attempts at lockdowns, social distancing and masking have been. A more virulent strain becomes a worry in this scenario. Keep the guard up.
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