India’s fight against COVID-19 is shaping up much better than neighbouring China due to robust “hybrid immunity”, the head of the country’s vaccine task force told NDTV today in an exclusive interview.
Dr NK Arora, who has been closely involved with the rollout of vaccines from the onset of the pandemic, also told NDTV that there is a huge opacity in China about their vaccination status, the severity of cases and the kinds of variants spreading there.
“The situation in China has led us to activate high level precautions…there should be not a moment where we are scrambling,” Dr Arora said.
He said India is much better placed in fighting the pandemic than China due to several factors, one of them being “hybrid immunity”, which is a mixture of vaccination and natural immunity.
“Herd immunity is a complex matter. Let’s not go into that. What we have in India is strong hybrid immunity…India has seen waves after waves of infection and many people have got exposure to natural infection,” Dr Arora said.
He said at least 96 per cent children below 12 years in India have been exposed to Covid, which has led to natural immunity. “India also has the benefit of people getting two primary doses,” Dr Arora told NDTV.
India’s genomic surveillance is on top of everything, he said, adding most of the strains reported from China have been isolated.
Dr Arora said those who have already received a booster dose won’t be able to register for the nasal vaccine on CoWIN. He warned people against getting a second booster.
On concerns over BF.7 variant, Dr Arora said China is seeing a mixture of variants and the BF.7 only accounts for 15 per cent of the cases.
He cited a report from 48 hours ago that said China is facing an onslaught of a mixture of variants. The BN and BQ series account for 50 per cent cases in China, and SVV variant is 10-15 per cent.
“The Chinese vaccine which their people got is probably not effective,” Dr Arora said.
Dr Arora is the Chairman of the Covid Working Group of NTAGI, short for the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which works on introduction of new vaccines and strengthening the universal immunisation programme.