K VijayRaghavan, principal scientific advisor to the government, on Wednesday warned that a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic was inevitable. He said that vaccines have to be “updated” to deal with new strains of the virus, along with further surveillance.
At a press conference, VijayRaghavan spoke about the future of the coronavirus crisis.
“A phase three is inevitable, given the higher levels of circulating virus,” he said. “But it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. Hopefully, incrementally, but we should prepare for new waves. Previous infections and vaccines will cause adaptive pressure on the virus for new kinds of changes which try to escape. We should be prepared scientifically to take care of that.”
VijayRaghavan said new variants are transmitted in the same manner as the original strain. “It doesn’t have properties of new kinds of transmission,” he added. “It infects humans in a manner that makes it more transmissible as it gains entry, makes more copies and goes on, same as original.”
However, the principal scientific advisor said that vaccines were effective against the variants. “New variants will arise all over the world and in India too, but variants that increase transmission will likely plateau,” he said. “Immune evasive variants and those which lower or increase disease severity will arise going ahead.”
Scientists and experts are studying the reason for the current surge in cases in India and particularly whether a variant first detected in the country, called B.1.617, is the reason. It has been classified by scientists in the United Kingdom as a “variant under investigation” and has been partially blamed for the explosion in the number of cases in India.
VijayRaghavan said the current wave of the pandemic, which has hit with such “ferocity”, was not predicted.
On whether a nationwide lockdown was the only solution to tackle the worsening situation, NITI Aayog member and chief of the National Expert Group on vaccines VK Paul said, “...If anything more is required those options are always being discussed. There’s already a guideline to states to impose restrictions to suppress chain of transmission.”
Meanwhile, Union Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said that the relief materials coming from abroad was being monitored by a group of senior officials. “Our technical wing has made guidelines to see that what hospital would the equipment be suitable for,” he claimed. “The equipment is being sent to hospitals where an immediate need has been felt.”
India’s coronavirus deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours, a day after the country became the world’s second, after the United States, to cross the grim milestone of 2 crore total cases mark. Daily cases rose by 3,82,315 to 2,06,65,148 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. India has recorded more than 3 lakh cases a day for nearly 15 days in a row, since April 22.
Hospitals across the country are scrambling for beds and oxygen as they tackle the surge.