End Of COVID-19 Pandemic in India? Dr Gagandeep Kang Answers FAQs

COVID-19: Will there be no other variant like the Delta variant? What about masks? Dr Gagandeep Kang answers.

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Can the COVID-19 pandemic end soon? The World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has hinted at this – adding that that the world has never been closer to end the pandemic. This comes even as certain European nations, and the US is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

But what about India? Where do we stand? FIT asked Gagandeep Kang, Virologist & Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, certain questions on all our minds.

"We should be thinking about our own situation, based on what we see around us. What is it that we see? Our healthcare system is handling cases well. The testing has crashed due to fewer cases. We are not seeing a lot of sick people flocking to hospitals," she told FIT.

Does this mean India is in the endemic stage?

"If I were to have a game-plan for the future of India, it would be focused on testing respiratory infections for a range of pathogens in hospitals – not in the general community. Not your common cold, cough or fever.

But respiratory infections that make people sick enough to come to hospitals. It should not just be focused on SARS-COV-2. We should be looking at what else is causing respiratory diseases. We know that there is a lot of influenza out there; we know that there are other respiratory pathogens as well. So, we should be tracking everything and not just SARS-COV-2. If you call that endemic, then SARS-COV-2 is endemic."


Will there be no other variant like the Delta variant?

"Since Omicron seems to cause milder illness, as long as we continue to see Omicron-derived variants, we should see milder forms of the disease. Does this mean we will no longer have a variant with a severe disease again? I don't think there are any guarantees to that. That speaks as to why it continues to be important to monitor both the clinical picture and the genome."

Does this mean we can skip masks?

"For people who are specially vulnerable, for whom vaccines do not necessarily offer protection very well and who have co-morbidities, I think it is for them to assess their own risk tolerance. And if there is a lot of disease and a lot of infection around, then they should be wearing masks. Masks definitely work. But the use depends on risk tolerance."


Should we take boosters every year?

"We should be looking at what the frequency of boosting ought to be and what we should be boosting with. For example, with mRNA vaccines, you get a really high antibody response and then it crashes. You inject again and antibodies go up to a high level and then it crashes. By the time you get to the fourth dose, your boosts are getting lower and lower each time. However, with some of the adenovirus, vector vaccine, you actually see that the immune response takes a longer time to mature. It takes six months. So, assessing which combination of vaccine gives us the best immune response, both antibodies as well as cellular response, that last for a long time is really important."


What next for India?

"I think it is time to move on and think about other diseases in India now. From studies in other parts of the world, we know that hybrid immunity – one that comes from a combination of vaccination and infection – is the best immunity to have. You get some amount of local protection as well as protection through antibodies in your bloodstream. I think we, and the rest of the world, should be thinking about. We should decide:

  • What our priorities are?

  • What was neglected during the pandemic?

  • How to build stronger health systems?"

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Topics:  COVID-19 

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