The second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak has left India clutching at the straws of hope. The healthcare infrastructure in most states is stressed given the shortage of oxygen, nurses and doctors at hospitals, which has led to a rise in the number of COVID-19 deaths.
Recently, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Soumya Swaminathan said that the COVID-19 variant spreading across India is more contagious and has mutations that could potentially make it resistant to antibodies that are created by vaccines. The variant in question - B.1.617 - also known as the double mutant has been listed by WHO as a variant of interest.
To discuss this and more, CNBC-TV18 Managing Editor Shereen Bhan spoke to Dr Swaminathan.
In the exclusive interview, Dr Swaminathan said, "WHO remains very concerned about the number of cases and deaths happening in India. For the first time we have seen that globally the cases and deaths have plateaued but the South East Asia region driven by the increase in India is a very worrying picture."
She stressed, "All available vaccines today in India and elsewhere prevent severe COVID-19 disease and death. Even if you get the infection you are not going to end up in the ICU critically ill. So the message is, whichever vaccine is available to you and if you are eligible for it, please take it."
India has done well by vaccinating over 140 million people under the vaccination programme, but emphasised that for India's population size a lot more needs to be done. She added that India's problem is supply of vaccine versus the demand.
"So far the Indian vaccination program has gone very well by vaccinating over 140 million people. However for India's population size we need to do much more than that. But the problem is supply of vaccine versus the demand. So the supply forecasting is very important and that is where many countries have faltered because what actually happened was far short of what was projected. Second important thing is deciding which priority groups need to be vaccinated and India did very well in vaccinating its frontline workers and healthcare workers etc. and it was exactly inline with WHO prioritisation framework," she explained.Watch the video for more.