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Huge third COVID-19 wave unlikely to hit India; no need for boosters, says AIIMS Chief Dr Guleria

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Dr Guleria said, "It is unlikely that the third COVID-19 wave of a magnitude comparable to the first and second will hit India. With time the pandemic will take an endemic form. We'll continue to get cases but the severity will be highly reduced."

Huge third COVID-19 wave unlikely to hit India; no need for boosters, says AIIMS Chief Dr Guleria
A third Covid-19 wave of a magnitude comparable to the first two is unlikely to hit India, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria said as he underlined that absence of surge in cases at the moment. He suggested that vaccines are still protecting against the virus and there is no need for a booster dose for now. Speaking at the launch of a book "Going Viral: Making of Covaxin & The Inside Story" authored by ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava, Guleria said the way the vaccines are holding up in terms of preventing severity and hospital admission, chances of any huge wave with large admissions is declining with each passing day.
"It is unlikely that the third wave of COVID-19 of a magnitude comparable to the first and second will hit India. With time the pandemic will take an endemic form. We'll continue to get cases but the severity will be highly reduced," he said. On the need for a booster dose, he said there is no surge in cases as such at the moment which suggests that vaccines are still protecting against coronavirus. "Therefore there is no need for a vaccine booster dose or third dose for now," said Dr Guleria.
NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said the decision on a third dose should be based on science. "There are studies being done on boosters, we are going through data and research. This is work in progress," he said, underlining the completion of the second dose for India's adult population and administering the first dose to those who have not taken it is the priority for the government for now.
He also said the pandemic is not over and it won't be extinguished in the future but might reach an endemic form. If the virus at all chooses to change its characteristics and take a different dimension all our preparations could be dented, Paul said.
"But definitely we are in a much better-prepared position now be in terms of health infrastructure. But we can't afford to lower our guard and should continue with following Covid appropriate behaviour," he advised. Bhargava, who spoke at length about his book, published by Rupa, said there is no scientific evidence so far to support the need for a booster vaccine dose against COVID-19.
Talking about India's fight against COVID-19, he said there was clarity and sincerity in the work of scientists, the government and people in the last one and half years. There have been learnings from the pandemic for people and government which includes strengthening health facilities and developing a robust system of surveillance, he added.
"We have to be watchful and careful of all the viruses in the world in this world of quick mobility. The media's role was crucial in ensuring that the reporting around the virus and the vaccine was honest and diligent. It ensured that people had zero hesitancy towards the vaccine," Bhargava said. "Going Viral" captures first-hand experiences of scientists who worked round the clock to develop India's first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine in a record time of fewer than eight months.
In his book, Bhargava has also brought to the forefront some lesser-known facts behind the making of Covaxin including the innovative ways in which scientists navigated a strict nationwide lockdown to conduct India's first seroprevalence survey. In another anecdote, the author has highlighted the important role played by 20 monkeys in ensuring that millions of Indians across the country have access to this life-saving vaccine. At the launch, Bhargava highlighted the immense strength of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) to fight the odds and stand tall in the global public health community.
Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, said that India has come a very long way in the fight against COVID-19. "Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have has been actively involved in COVID-19 RNA extraction, development of testing kits, and vaccine development. Effective collaboration, strong leadership and efficient teamwork made this possible," he said.
Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the government said ICMR's partnership with Bharat Biotech was timely and efficient. "Now we must ensure that everyone is vaccinated and practising safety measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing."
Dr. Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director of Bharat Biotech highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in making Covaxin a reality. "The development of Covaxin is a true success story for public-private partnerships in India, which is based on mutual respect, trust, and transparency," he said.
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