A study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research has shown that if a third wave of the coronavirus hits India, it is likely to come late, the head of a government working group said on Sunday.

“We have a window period of six to eight months [before third wave] to immunise everybody in the country,” NK Arora, chairperson of India’s Covid-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, told ANI. “In the coming days, our target is to administer 1 crore [vaccine] doses every day.”

The ICMR study also suggests that the prospective third wave is likely to be less severe than the second one, The Hindu reported. Using a model to forecast the third wave, the scientists found that at least 30% of the population who had been infected earlier must entirely lose their immunity for the third wave to be as devastating.

In another possible scenario for the third wave to be equally severe, an emerging variant of the virus must have a reproductive rate of over 4.5, which means each infected person should be spreading the virus to at least four to five others and these must occur almost immediately after the second wave ends.

“For a virus to cause a major third wave in the face of this pre-existing immunity, extreme scenarios for the abrogation of that immunity are required, or for that matter, for the transmission fitness of any novel virus,” the scientists noted.

The study authored by ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava, the body’s infectious disease unit head Samiran Panda, and others, has appeared in the Indian Journal of Medical Research as a pre-print.

‘Delta Plus variant has more affinity to lung tissues’

Meanwhile, speaking on the Delta plus variant of the coronavirus, Arora said it has greater affinity to lung tissues as compared to other strains, PTI reported. He, however, added that this characteristic of the strain does not necessarily mean it will cause severe disease or is more transmissible.

Arora said that the impact of the Delta plus strain will become clear only as more cases are identified. But, he added, that it appears that the disease is generally mild in all those who have got either single or double dose of the vaccine.

“The important point is that our genomic surveillance component has picked it [Delta plus variant] up rightly and early enough,” Arora said. “States have already been told that it is a variant of concern...Several states have already started making micro plans for the districts where the virus is identified so that their spread can be contained. Obviously vaccination will have to be increased in these districts.”

He added that the third wave will depend upon what proportion of the population got infected in the second wave. “If a large proportion is infected then in the next wave people can develop a common cold like illness but may not develop a serious or fatal illness,” Arora said.

Till now, 51 cases of Delta plus variant have been detected across 12 states, with Maharashtra reporting the maximum cases of this strain, according to PTI.