COVID-19: Herd immunity can't be strategic choice or option in India, says health ministry

"In a country with the size of the population like India, herd immunity cannot be a strategic choice or option. It can only be an outcome, and that too at a very high cost as it means lakhs of people would have to be infected, get hospitalised and...

NEW DELHI: India is far from herd immunity and cannot count on it to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the ministry of health and family welfare said on Thursday as it reiterated that there is no community transmission in India.

“Herd immunity is an indirect protection from an infectious disease. It is achieved either through vaccination of population or it is immunity developed through previous infection where people have recovered,” officer on special duty in health ministry Rajesh Bhushan said in response to a question on whether India was moving towards herd immunity. “According to 2011 Census, India has a population of 121 crore. For a country with this kind of population, herd immunity cannot be a strategic choice or an option. It can be an outcome at a very high cost.”

Bhushan said that herd immunity in India “is far, it is in future” adding, “Herd immunity can be achieved only through vaccination. Till a vaccine is developed, we need to employ Covid-appropriate behaviour”.

Covid-19 cases crossed 1.5 million in India this week and the country continues to have the fastest rate of growth in infections among the five worst-hit countries. At 3.6%, India's rate of increase in cases is more than double that of the US at 1.6% and significantly higher than Brazil's 2.3%—the only two countries with a higher caseload.

The Centre, however, emphasised that the number of recoveries have touched a “milestone” of 1 million. “The successful implementation of effective containment strategy, aggressive testing and standardised clinical management protocols based on a holistic standard of care approach have in a seamless manner resulted in a consistent trend of more than 30,000 recoveries per day for the seventh day in a row,” said Bhushan. The health ministry released data that also showed that 16 states and union territories exceed the national recovery rate of 64.4%. Delhi has the highest recovery rate of 89%.

The ministry, however, reiterated that there is no community spread in India.
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