Kerala far from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19

A man looks out from a COVID-19 ward in the Government Medical College Hospital in Manjeri, in the Malappuram district, August 18, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Krishna N Das

Thiruvanathapuram: It was nearly 21 months ago COVID-19 hit the shores of India as the first case was reported from Kerala. Subsequently, it claimed nearly half a million lives across India, as per official data, and turned upside down the regular pattern of life amid a few bouts of long lockdowns and total travel bans.

Meanwhile, curbs on public interaction, trade and other human activities continue in varying degrees and the country is still in the midst of a mega vaccination drive. As per the daily updated national figures, the pandemic seems to be on its way out despite the threat of a third wave of the pandemic, but in Kerala the pandemic is yet to subside.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Kerala is still far from attaining herd immunity. Considering the number of people administered at least a single dose of vaccine and those infected, Kerala should have acquired better immunity than other States. But the results of serosurvey the ICMR had released in July found Kerala lagging behind others in the case of acquired immunity.

Experts had earlier opined that herd immunity could be achieved if 60 per cent of the population acquired immunity – either through vaccination or infection. In the changed scenario, 80-90 per cent should have the antibodies against the virus to attain herd immunity.

Now, experts are of the view that 70% of the Indian population might have acquired immunity either through vaccination or after getting infected by the virus; hence the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases nationally. Considering this likely development outside the State, Kerala stands to gain, at least, by expediting the vaccination drive further.

Additionally, keeping the mortality rate low despite more people contracting the virus also helps in boosting immunity.

The decrease in daily COVID-19 cases, and lower confirmation rate have made several States confident to reopen schools. But these two factors are not in favour of Kerala.

As many as 19 States, which are behind Kerala in attaining immunity via vaccination, have reopened their schools.

Moreover, the vaccination of those aged under 18 has not yet commenced in India, and it is a major concern while reopening schools. The ICMR and the Central government had indicated that those States expediting the vaccination could reopen the educational institutions. Significantly, a many as 80% of teachers have received at least the first dose of the vaccine.

On Friday, September 3, Kerala reported 29,322 new COVID cases and 131 deaths attributed to the disease. In contrast, the national figures, including those of Kerala, were 45,352 new COVID-19 cases and 366 fresh fatalities. In other words, Kerala accounted for 70.7% of the new infections and 51% of deaths.  

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