Stopping COVID-19 third wave in public's hands, says NTAGI chief
The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) chief Dr. NK Arora said the third wave of COVID-19 infections isn't likely to hit India in September-October as some experts have predicted. He said that stopping the third wave is in the hands of the public and contingent on avoiding large public gatherings. He further said vaccinations for parents are more important than for children.
4 factors could stop India's third wave
Speaking to CNN-News18, Arora highlighted four factors to stop an imminent third wave and claimed that India is better placed than before. These factors are an expansion of genome surveillance, avoidance of large gatherings, expansion of immunization, and strengthening of the health care system. Arora claimed that India has already expanded genome surveillance with an increased capacity of 80,000 genomic analyses every month.
'Interval between variant mutation and identification reduced to 3-4 weeks'
Speaking about India's expansion of genome surveillance, Arora said, "Every new wave likely starts with a ferocious new virus mutation...Kerala doesn't have a new variant yet. The interval between variant mutation and identification is also reduced to three-four weeks."
'33% of population still susceptible in India'
Referring to the latest serosurvey, Arora urged people to avoid large gatherings with the festival season coming up because 33% of India's population is still vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. On the rest two factors, Arora said the government is working on both immunization expansion and strengthening the health system. "ICUs and pediatric care units are coming up and being operationalized as our oxygen plants."
'Preparation on; we must ensure third wave doesn't hit'
While the government is preparing for the third wave, Arora said attempts should be made to ensure that it does not hit at all. "A sizable population is already infected or getting vaccinated and health systems are being upgraded. We need people's support here."
Not kids, parents need to be vaccinated first: Arora
Talking about the impact of the third wave on children, Arora said severe disease and fatalities are uncommon among children. So, the government is planning to protect parents first. "We have to ensure parents are safe first and children automatically become less vulnerable. We have to go with proper priorities." He also indicated vaccination for children will start only after adult vaccination is completed.
How is the government planning to vaccinate children?
Arora said there are 44 crore children below 18 years and only 1% of them have co-morbidities. Stating that the government will prioritize one million children at present and about four million overall, Arora said kids between 12-18 years with co-morbidities will start getting jabs by October. Thereafter, vaccinations will start for all children by the first quarter of 2022, he added.
Government released two crore additional jabs for school staffs
Meanwhile, the government has released two crore additional jabs to vaccinate school staff as schools are reopening across the country. "Just like workplaces have ensured that only those vaccinated can come in...state governments are working to ensure all teaching staff is also vaccinated," Arora said.