The COVID-19 caseload may be down but with upticks in some pockets and new variants emerging in other countries and different countries adopting different approaches, what can one reasonably expect in India? Dr Gagandeep Kang, India’s most respected virologist and the professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, takes time out from her busy schedule to talk to Financial Express Online on the virus, the concerns in some quarters about a possible wave yet again as also on what next now for the vaccines.
Watch Video | COVID-19: Is the worst behind us? Dr Gangandeep Kang on the virus & the vaccines
How effective can the existing vaccines remain and what needs to be done to redesign vaccines that can finally provide the longest lasting protection and stay armed against the widest breadth of variants. On the virus, the apparent good news is that the worst may be behind us now. She says: “I think we are going to have to live with the virus but in many senses we have been through the worst. So, with the experience that we have painfully gathered through 2020 and 2021, I think, we should have the tools to be able to able to address any challenges that the virus throws at us in the future.”
Watch Video | We have been through the worst, says Dr Gagandeep Kang
On the vaccines and what next and if it was time to reset the bar on the vaccines and focus on redesigning them, she says, “It is important for us to undertake studies and to look at making modified vaccines” that can aim to provide the longest lasting protection with the greatest breadth against a range of variants.
On the risks of a fourth wave, she said much depends on how we define a wave, if it going to be number of cases then there could be one and that may not be much of a worry if it is not matched by increased hospitalisations and deaths. However, she underlines the point that it is wise to be prepared to avoid a wave that leads to increased hospitalisations and deaths and for that, it is important to keep doing the genetic sequencing so we know what a new variant does and therefore be better prepared.
Watch Video | Dr Gagandeep Kang on why redesign COVID-19 vaccines
As far as the scene in the country today with many going off-guard and the risks, she says, education is important and a greater understanding of who is most vulnerable will help along with focus on preparedness of the health system to respond in case of a crisis. Thereafter, she feels one must give people leeway to let them determine how much risk they are willing to take. Dr Kang also shared her thoughts on what to make of the World Health Organisation (WHO) restrictions on Bharat Biotech from exporting Covaxin to UN agencies.