COVID-19 pandemic: have we reached endemic stage?

Highlights

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Chief Scientist stated that COVID-19 would likely reach an endemic stage in India by 2022.
  • At the endemic stage, an indication may not always be predominant with high spread levels, but it could remain there for a longer duration with sporadic surges.
  • The possibility of a third wave in India depends on how soon the country can officially announce that it has achieved the endemic stage.

At the endemic phase, a disease might not always be prevalent with elevated spread levels but may continue there for a longer duration with intermittent rises. On 24 August 2021, the Chief Scientist of the WHO, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, stated that in India, COVID-19 is expected to reach an endemic stage by 2022. She also indicated that this transformation of COVID-19 would be facilitated by ensuring vaccination as well as appropriate behavior of people to stop the spread of COVID-19.  

The WHO Chief Scientist also highlighted that transmission level will be normal to moderate, besides, the exponential growth and peaks that the country witnessed a few months before are unlikely.

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Swaminathan also said that the COVID-19 condition in India will persist with ups and downs considering the size and heterogeneity of the country’s population and their immunity status. Hence, only the vulnerable areas where the immunization levels are low may rise in the cases for the next several months.

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What is endemic, pandemic and epidemic?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC describes an endemic as the usual prevalence of an indication or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area. When any disease rises above the anticipated level in a community, it is named as epidemic. As per the CDC, a pandemic is an epidemic that has spread over a large geographical area or several nations, usually affecting a large group of people. Although there are differences regarding the explanation of a pandemic, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) it is the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”

Possibility of third wave in India 

The possibility of a third COVID-19 wave mostly depends on how quickly the country can officially announce that it has reached the endemic stage. At the endemic stage, an indication may not always be predominant with high spread levels, but it could remain there for a longer duration with intermittent surges. 

This means that the country will soon learn to live with the coronavirus, with the government focussing on containment and expediating the vaccination process. Also, the government specialists are continually warning the people that the third wave of COVID-19 is still very much possible if people stop being vigilant. Recently, a government panel stated that the third wave in India could peak as early as October 2021.

COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots

According to the latest data from the Union Health Ministry, India has administered more than 61 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of 27 August 2021. However, the country’s adult vaccination coverage is around 14%. Dr Swaminathan believed that India could feel safe against COVID-19 once the country reaches 70-75% adult vaccination. 

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While COVID-19 vaccines will be effective, there is still no clarity that the booster shots will be needed or not. Possibly, the large number of vaccinations could stop the COVID-19 spread of in some areas but it completely depends on how many people get their jabs and how effective these vaccines are.

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