New Delhi: Vaccine inequality remains a problem within India, where less than 2 percent of the population has received a booster dose of Covid, while 56 countries in the world cannot vaccinate even 10 percent of their populations, says Amita Gupta, a Johns Hopkins University scientist. .
Tracking hospitalization rates that provide an indication of disease severity is key, said the division chief of infectious diseases and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, while emphasizing that no one is safe from Covid until everyone in the world is vaccinated.
She cited the example of an Omicron variant to support her point.
He believes the highly contagious variant emerged in November last year in South Africa and Botswana due to insufficient immunization in African countries before spreading globally, Gupta said, adding that the other variant is likely to follow the same trend.
Inequality in global vaccines remains a problem within India and globally. For example, on the continent of Africa, less than 20 percent of the population is currently vaccinated and there are countries in Africa that are still less than 2 percent immunized, Gupta said in an email interview.
With immunity waning and new variants of Covid emerging, it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and strengthened, she said.
Full vaccination is not sufficient only for a few countries. She added that health workers and the most vulnerable populations in all countries must be fully vaccinated to stop the epidemic.
Gupta said that in India, there are some areas that are hard to reach and there is an urgent need to increase booster vaccination for those who qualify.
The public health expert said it was difficult to predict whether other mutations in SARS-CoV-2 would increase or decrease the intrinsic virulence or severity of the virus.
What we do know is that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone in the world is safe. The vast majority of vaccines have been administered in high- and middle-income countries. She added that 56 countries were effectively excluded from the global vaccine market and were unable to vaccinate even 10 percent of their population.
A large, densely populated country like India must ensure that the population gets some measure of protection against severe disease – either through immunization or previous infection.
With immunity waning and variants emerging, Gupta said it is more important than ever that communities are fully vaccinated and strengthened.
Less than 2 per cent of the population (in India) currently has received the Covid booster medication even though there is no shortage of supplies. This number needs to be increased.
The cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses given in India exceeded Rs 187 crore on Wednesday, according to the Federal Ministry of Health. The total number of precautionary doses given to adults is 2,35,786 (2.3 lakh).
Going forward, Gupta expects periodic increases in cases with new, more transmissible variants. Keeping track of hospitalization rates is pivotal.
While some countries such as the UK are seeing local increases in the number of cases, hospitalizations are not increasing dramatically, and health systems are working to manage the increases.
Expect a similar situation to occur in India with these current sub-variables. She added that India is likely to face another boom but will be more prepared as people are more aware, systems have been strengthened and monitoring is going on.
Gupta noted that the epidemic is not over yet and it is difficult to predict when new variants will appear and how these strains will behave.
She said we must continue to closely monitor for early detection of Covid cases through the country’s existing surveillance networks and be ready to initiate recommendations for the resumption of masking and social distancing in the event of a sudden increase.
According to the World Health Organization, BA.2, a more contagious subtype of Omicron, now drives the most cases of coronavirus worldwide.
Gupta said the new variants are more transmissible than the previous variants and an increase in cases is being observed.
Vaccines continue to protect against manifestations of severe disease. She said future morbidity and mortality depend on age demographics, fatigue of guidelines, vaccine and booster intake.
Universal vaccinations and close surveillance of diseases will reduce the infection rate. Gupta explained that in India, 73 percent had received the first dose, 61 percent had two doses, and 1.7 percent had received a booster dose as of April 13, so continuing to encourage the remaining population to get vaccinated is important.
Studies have shown that current Covid vaccines have somewhat reduced their effectiveness in protecting people from infection and from developing acute illness with Omicron and its subvariants.
Gupta stressed that vaccines still reduce the risk of serious disease in more than 50 percent of those who become infected.
There is a lot of work underway to develop new vaccines to improve efficacy in preparing for additional new variants.
Many experts have said in the past that COVID in India was trending towards endemicity, a stage when the presence of the disease becomes constant in a particular area or at least predictable.
There are three possible receptors: persistent peaks of elevated disease and virus evolution with increased incidence, seasonal COVID-19, and endemic COVID-19. Gupta explained that we are not yet at a place where we can say that COVID is endemic.
Its concerns come as India on Friday reported a one-day rise in 2,451 new Covid-19 infections and 54 deaths, bringing the number of cases in the country to 4,30,52,425 (more than Rs 4.3 crore), and the number of deaths to 5,22,116 (more than 5.2 lakh)).
For future pandemics, Gupta said it is crucial to apply lessons learned from Covid and invest in health infrastructure to better prepare the country to prevent tragedy.
She said long-term investment and continued commitment are essential to strengthening public health, healthcare systems and biomedical sciences in India.
The scientist pointed out that Johns Hopkins University has many different types of partnerships with India. This includes working together to combat infectious diseases and identify new diagnoses, treatments and prevention strategies for diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, COVID, dengue, pneumonia and hepatitis.
Gupta said India is an important partner in addressing global public health challenges, and we are learning a lot from each other in the India-Johns Hopkins Aramcoba Health Partnerships.
Together, she added, we work on models for public health and medical training, health systems strengthening, biomedical discovery, clinical research and data science, and the development of low-cost, accessible, and affordable technologies to improve the health of communities and individuals around the world. .
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