Covid-19 third wave? Epidemiologist warns against complacency, lowering guard during wedding season

Masking and maintaining social distance were the way forward, apart from a full vaccination course. (File/PTI)

People attending weddings should be cautious and continue to follow Covid-appropriate protocol during the ongoing wedding season, a former Indian Council of Medical Research epidemiologist has warned.

Dr RR Gangakhedkar, who is now part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) expert group tracking the origins of Covid-19, said people should be careful and comply with Covid-appropriate behaviour such as social distancing and masking.

The health expert told The Indian Express a third dose could only be considered once there was sufficient evidence amid talks of a booster shot gaining ground.

Wedding season warning
While India has seen a decline in active caseload, the health expert said the wedding season was a setting where people actively engaged with each other. As a result, care must be taken so that Covid-19 restrictions are not flouted, he said. Unlike festivals, the wedding season is more difficult to handle.

If Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in a city or area, the authorities should issue a strong cautionary note. If the restrictions are in place, they should not be violated, he told The Indian Express.

India has so far vaccinated 116.97 crore people. The active caseload currently stands at 1.18 lakh, according to Union Health Ministry data. The weekly positivity rate has been below 2% for the past 59 days.

Despite the progress, Dr Gangakhedkar said there was no room for complacency.

According to a survey of 17,000 respondents from 319 districts by social media platform LocalCircles, 60% are likely to attend engagements and/or weddings during November and December. The survey also found that vaccination had given people confidence, adding that there was a general fatigue about Covid-19.

Dr Gangakhedkar warned against this and said people should not be complacent. Masking and maintaining social distance were the way forward, apart from a full vaccination course.

He added that vaccination coverage had to be cent per cent. The virus is there and will continue to find a way to the vulnerable and unvaccinated, he said.

Covid-19 surge in Europe
Explaining the surge in caseload that has led to shutdowns and restrictions in Europe, Dr Gangakhedkar said vaccination coverage in European Union countries was high but the Delta variant had become predominant. In India, the Delta variant was the predominant strain in April-June, but it was followed by an uptick in the country’s vaccination programme.

The vaccination programme in India picked up during the second wave. People were getting natural infection and that was followed by an increase in vaccination percentage, Dr Gangakhedkar said.

Booster dose
The health expert said a Pfizer trial had shown that vaccine efficacy tended to drop off after six months. However, there was a need for more evidence and studies to make an informed decision, he added.

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