A new government-run serological survey has indicated that about one in four of India’s 1.35 billion population may have been infected with the novel coronavirus—signaling that the country’s actual caseload is much higher than officially reported.
According to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, India has registered more than 10.8 million cases, the second highest in the world behind the United States, along with more than a hundred fifty thousand deaths, which ranks fourth.
In a separate survey conducted in August and September that used blood samples of more than twenty-nine thousand people aged ten and older, the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had concluded that one in fifteen Indians possessed coronavirus antibodies, with the figures climbing to one in six in densely populated urban slums.
Another survey released by the government of the capital New Delhi earlier this week revealed that more than half of its twenty million population may have been infected with the coronavirus.
According to the World Health Organization, at least 60 percent to 70 percent of a population needs to have immunity to achieve herd immunity—which aims to have enough people within a population become immune to a disease, often through vaccination or natural infection, to make its spread unlikely. As a result, the entire community is protected, even those who are not themselves immune, according to Harvard Medical School.
Help is, however, quickly on the way, as India’s vaccination program, which has been touted by the government as being the world’s largest of its kind, has already inoculated more than four million people over the span of eighteen days. The government has set an ambitious goal of vaccinating three hundred million by August.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the country would release more locally made coronavirus vaccines in an effort to end the yearlong pandemic.
“So far, only two made-in-India vaccines have been introduced, but in the future, many more vaccines will be made available,” Modi said during a recent virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, adding that India had “fulfilled its global responsibilities” by successfully setting up vaccine-related infrastructure across the country.
India, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of medicines, is currently producing two vaccines: Covishield, licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, developed locally by Bharat Biotech in partnership with ICMR.
Modi added that he has taken necessary steps to help the country’s economy overcome damage caused by the pandemic. The third-largest economy in Asia is expected to contract 7.7 percent in the current financial year ending in March, its worst performance in four decades.
“I want to assure the business world that the situation will now change rapidly on the economic front also,” he said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.