Health expert warns against herd immunity strategy

Advisor to the Odisha government on health, K. Srinath Reddy   | Photo Credit: C.V. Subrahmanyam

Prominent public health expert and advisor to the Odisha government on health, K. Srinath Reddy, warned against pursuing the herd immunity strategy to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The herd immunity idea might prove to be dangerous as it carries the risk of high fatality. It is better to focus on herd protection by emphasising more on disease containment and protection of vulnerable groups,” Dr. Reddy said during an interaction with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, other Ministers and top bureaucrats through videoconference on Thursday.

Many experts have been recommending the herd immunity strategy for India as the country has a significantly young population.

“Social distancing must continue to be the focus of all our efforts as there is currently no effective medicine or vaccine available for the disease. Community support and partnership can be immensely helpful,” he said.

“The infection damages the heart, the brain and the intestine. The young are more susceptible to the infection due to larger social contact. But their morbidity is lower. Elderly persons, especially persons with co-morbidities, are at a higher risk. The infection can be quite serious for them and can lead to death,” the public health expert said.

“While countries like Britain, the United States and Sweden suffered heavily due to a delay in imposing lockdowns, small nations like Vietnam controlled the disease with social distancing, large-scale testing and contact tracing,” said Dr. Reddy, who is part of the international steering committee on the COVID “Solidarity” group trial being conducted by the World Health Organization.

“Evidence is emerging that high temperatures and humidity can have an effect on the virus to make it less dangerous. The virus is, however, climatic temperature neutral.”

“In India, vaccinations for diseases like BCG, polio and the massive use of anti-malaria drugs may be a cause of enhanced immunity and the disease may not create a critical situation. However, these are hypothesis which need further research,” he said.

Dr. Reddy recommended more protection for police personnel, as they were equally vulnerable like the healthcare workers. “Some sort of mechanism should be developed for creating temporary physical barricades — protection of the eyes by providing goggles, gloves for the protection of the hands and other such general methods of protection to secure personnel,” he said.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 8:42:33 AM |

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