COVID19 Virus May Reach Its Endemic Stage After A While, Like Influenza: ICMR

Amid the world fights the severe second wave of coronavirus which ravaged the world earlier this year, another highly transmissible strain of concern, the Delta variant of the COVID-19 is giving rise to new infection cases in various pockets of the world. This strain was first detected in India, the Delta COVID-19 variant is now present in almost 100 countries. In US, the highly transmissible Delta strain has overtaken the Alpha variant to become the dominant variant in many parts of the country.

Shri Samiran Panda, Head, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, Indian Council for Medical Research said, people are also wary that the vaccines that they are receiving now may not be effective after a while, as the virus is mutating rapidly. However, Dr. Panda points out that mutation is normal for all viruses when they proliferate. Experts suggest that the COVID-19 virus will reach its endemic stage like Influenza after a while and then vulnerable population may have to take the vaccine shot annually.  Dr. Panda explains Influenza commonly known as flu was a pandemic 100 years ago but today it is endemic.  Similarly, in case of COVID-19, we expect that it will gradually become endemic from its current state of being a pandemic. Currently, we recommend the elderly to take annual flu shots. As the influenza virus keeps on mutating, we simultaneously make minor changes in the vaccine. So, there is no need to panic.

Many people are concerned whether our vaccines will be effective against the newer strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus.  According to Dr. Panda, the vaccines available now largely are effective against the new variants. He further explains, vaccines are not infection preventing, but disease-modifying. Experiments at ICMR have proved that the vaccines presently available in India are effective against the new variants as well. However, the efficacy may differ for different strains.

Dr. Samiran Panda further says that it is futile to go for anti-body tests as the immunity does not depend only on anti-bodies. He adds, the anti-bodies that are seen using the commercial kits available in the market are not necessarily the anti-bodies that can protect from COVID disease.  Dr. Panda explains that whenever a person gets vaccinated, two types of immunity emerge. One is known as neutralizing anti-body or anti-body mediated immunity. Second one is cell mediated immunity. Third one and the most important one is immune memory. An immune memory is generated after vaccination and is present in cells and whenever the virus enters the body, this gets activated.

India recorded a single-day rise of 45,892 new COVID-19 cases, taking its infection tally to 3,07,09,557, while the count of active cases increased slightly to 4,60,704 after being on a consistent downward trend for nearly 55 days. Get the latest COVID-19 updates, news, and information here.

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