Prepare for 3rd wave, says Prime Minister’s adviser

Challenge will be to detect variants with ability to escape vaccines, cautions Raghavan

Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 5

As India grapples with a lethal second spell of Covid-19 with daily cases rising on Wednesday after a three-day fall and daily deaths soaring to a record high, the government today said a third wave was inevitable and the country needed to prepare in advance.

K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said the challenge would be to detect variants with capacity to escape vaccines and alter inoculation strategies.

“The phase 3 of Covid-19 is inevitable, but it is not clear on what time scale it will occur. We should prepare for new waves. Previous infections and vaccines will cause adaptive pressures on the virus for new changes that try to escape and, therefore, we should prepare scientifically to detect that,” Raghavan said.

Top scientists clarified that all available vaccines worked well on currently circulating B1.1.7 (UK strain) and B1.617 (the double mutant) variants, but added that going into newer waves, active surveillance would be needed along with vaccine updates to counter adaptive variants that could escape available vaccines. The expert said the current variants could be easily countered with masks and distancing. “These variants are transmitted in the same manner as the original strain. They don’t have new transmission properties like in the air,” Raghavan said, advising people to use masks and maintain social distancing.

“We have to be prepared for alterations in vaccine strategy. Scientists are making a map in labs of all possible changes in the virus and how these can affect immune and vaccine evasion. We are going to be much better prepared to handle the variants now,” he said.

Asked why India did not see the second wave coming, the expert said a second wave was expected, but the ferocity was not.

“Such a ferocious second wave was not predicted. New opportunities for infection arose when we dropped our guard and when the standing level of immunity from the first wave was not enough to stop the virus,” he said.


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