WHO chief scientist on vaccine targets in India and potential third wave

According to Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist of the World Health Organization, India is better prepared to prevent new waves of Covid-19 from devastating the country.

The South Asian nation suffered a devastating second wave between February and early May in which daily infection cases and death rates rose alarmingly, marginalizing the health system.

Since then, cases have decreased and currently averages around 30,000 to 40,000 per day. The vaccination rate has also increased significantly.

Swaminathan appeared on CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Wednesday, saying the world has learned enough about the coronavirus to understand which of the human body’s weaknesses it is exploiting and what public health tools and measures are effective to deal with it to fight.

“I think we are now in India, but also in other countries, much better equipped to prevent waves of disasters,” she said.

Expect a third wave

India expects a third wave of infections this year. However, many public health experts agree that the effects are likely to be less severe than those of the first two waves.

“I think the preparations at the health system level have really improved, particularly with regard to oxygen and critical care facilities,” said Swaminathan.

“In addition, the health workforce needs to be increased because it is not enough just to have the equipment, the materials and the medicines. We also need trained nurses, doctors, anesthetists, critical care practitioners and others, ”she added.

At this rate, it should be possible to achieve the goal of having almost all adults in (India) vaccinated. It’s a huge population.

Soumya Swaminathan

Chief Scientist, WHO

Swaminathan added that a combination of vaccinations and other public health measures – like wearing masks, especially indoors, avoiding large gatherings, and ensuring high tests – could provide early warnings that could prevent another explosive outbreak.

During the second wave, Indian hospitals initially struggled with a lack of beds and a limited supply of oxygen and medication, which overwhelmed medical professionals.

India’s vaccination goals

People wait in a queue to receive the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine outside a mall in Mumbai, India, on Aug. 11, 2021.

Francis Mascarenhas | Reuters

Swaminathan pointed out that the pace of vaccination in India has increased in recent weeks.

“At this rate, it should be possible to achieve the goal of having almost all adults in the country vaccinated. It’s a huge population – 700 million doses already given, “she said. “There is still a long way to go, but if this pace continues, if shipments from manufacturers continue, then … I think it should be possible to achieve that goal.”

Government data showed that India has administered an average of around 7.5 million doses per day since September 1. Around 14.1 million doses were administered on August 31.

While vaccination remains voluntary, over 50,000 government institutions give vaccinations for free. People can also pay for them in over 2,800 private centers.

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