The Indian Council of Medical Research said on Tuesday that coronavirus reinfection is possible, but it is a “very rare” occurrence, PTI reported. ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava made the remark amid suspected cases of reinfection being reported from abroad and from Indian states such as Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra.

“We have seen that someone gets measles and he is supposed to be protected all his life because he generates certain antibodies, but then we have seen reinfection occurring in measles,” Bhargava told a press conference. “Similarly, we can have reinfection with COVID-19 as has been described by the case in Hong Kong and it is not a matter of serious concern.”

Last month, Bhargava had said it is not yet known how long immunity against coronavirus lasts.

Bhargava also said that two coronavirus vaccines being indigenously developed by Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed Phase-1 trials. The results are being analysed, he added.

The Serum Institute of India is also conducting Phase-3 trials of a vaccine in collaboration with Oxford University. However, these trials were temporarily stopped at the direction of the Drugs Controller General of India after a volunteer in the United Kingdom fell ill. The Serum Institute got permission to resume the trials on Tuesday.

“Serum Institute of India has completed Phase 2-B3 trials of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate,” Bhargava said. “There was a pause of seven days. They will start the Phase-3 trial with 1,500 patients at 14 locations in India after clearances.”

On India planning to collaborate with Russia on the production of the Sputnik-V vaccine, Bhargava said Moscow has not yet completed Phase-3 trials. However, he added that a study published in medical journal The Lancet said the vaccine is showing good effectiveness and immune-antibody generation in 76 patients. India’s High-Level Committee on Vaccines and Russian diplomats are in talks about the mechanisms for conducting Phase-3 trials of Sputnik-V in India, Bhargava said.

‘Learnt from experience of European countries’

Bhargava said that in India, the government has been able to “distribute the curve” of the coronavirus, by learning from the experiences of European countries. “The United States and countries of Europe had a peak, then they came down and there is a second wave occurring there,” Bhargava said. “We took learning from that. We distributed the curve in a way that we didn’t have many deaths. It was because we had an effective lockdown. We did not have a huge peak at all.”

The ICMR director general also said a national sero-survey, being conducted every three months, has been completed in 68 out of 70 districts.

On Tuesday, India’s coronavirus tally rose to 49,30,236 as it reported 83,809 new cases in the last 24 hours. The toll rose by 1,054 to 80,776.