With the COVID-19 very likely to remain a public health threat for at least another years, a third wave of COVID-19 infections is likely to hit India by October, health experts warn. They have said that this would be better controlled than the latest outbreak.
According to a Reuters poll of medical experts, the June 3-17 snap survey of 40 healthcare specialists, doctors, scientist, virologists, epidemiologists and professors from around the world showed a significant pickup in vaccinations will likely provide some cover to a fresh outbreak. Over 85% of respondents said the next wave will hit by October, including three who forecast it as early as August and 12 in September.
However, 70% of experts said any new outbreak would be better controlled compared with the current one (second wave). Dr Randeep Guleria, director at AIIMS, said it will be more controlled as cases will be much less because more vaccinations would have been rolled out and there would be some degree of natural immunity from the second-wave. India, so far, only fully vaccinated about 5% of its estimated 950 million eligible population, leaving many millions vulnerable to COVID infections and deaths.
Majority of healthcare experts have predicted that the vaccination drive would pick up significantly this year. However, they cautioned against an early removal of restrictions. And the healthcare experts also highlighted that children and those under 18 years would be most at risk in the third wave.
Dr Pradeep Banandur, head of epidemiology department at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, explained that they are a completely virgin population in terms of vaccination because currently there is no vaccine available for them. Dr Devi Shetty, a cardiologist at Narayana Health and an advisor to the Karnataka state government on pandemic response planning, said that if children get infected in large numbers and the authorities are not prepared, nothing can be done at the last minute. “It will be a whole different problem as the country has very, very few paediatric intensive care unit beds, and that is going to be a disaster.”
A senior health ministry official, earlier this week, said children were vulnerable and susceptible to infections but that analysis has shown a less severe health impact. Experts had also said future COVID variants would not make existing vaccines ineffective, and will remain a public threat in India for at least a year.