Though the threat of an outbreak of the fourth wave of COVID-19 in India cannot be ruled out, the virus is expected to be less virulent, compared to the delta wave. Modelling studies also do not predict any peak, says Chandrima Shaha, president, Indian National Science Academy (INSA).
Prof Chandrima Shaha, who is the first woman president of INSA, is also a former Director of the National Immunology, New Delhi. She was in the city to participate in the inaugural of the three-day 88th anniversary general meeting of INSA, hosted by the CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography Regional Centre, Visakhapatnam, here on Wednesday.
“The virus does not like to kill its host (human beings) as that will be a threat to its own existence. It undergoes mutations and become less virulent. It makes its host sick, but does not kill him/her. This could be a possible reason for the low mortality in the latest wave in China, though the infections are severe,” Prof. Shaha told The Hindu on the sidelines of the meeting.
“Indians are more immune to viruses compared to the Europeans. The ‘post-COVID complications’ are due to the damage caused by the virus to the lungs and liver. On the side-effects of COVID-19 vaccines, she said: “All vaccines have minute side effects, and it may take about a decade to know the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines. One should appreciate the fact that while the normal time taken for development of a vaccine is around 15 years, the vaccines for COVID-19 were developed in just 15 months. The vaccination programme was also very successful in India.”
But, can we afford to be complacent, since we are already vaccinated, in the event of an outbreak of a new wave? “The virus is undergoing mutations and we may be immune by 50% to one variant but what about the remaining variants? We should observe pandemic protocols like wearing masks and social distancing for our own safety,” she says.
Can India, with its 130 crore population, ever achieve herd immunity? “It may be difficult, but the success of the vaccination programme shows that we (India) handled the situation very well,” adds Prof. Shaha.