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According to a new survey, more than two-thirds of India may have Covid antibodies

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Approximately 67.6% of Indians surveyed over the age of 6 showed antibodies, according to the nationwide study, which was conducted between June and July by the Indian-led Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR). The survey covered 70 districts in 21 states, with 28,975 participants.

Our immune system develops antibodies induced by vaccination or in response to infection. The majority of survey participants, 62%, had not received any vaccine; about a quarter had reached the first dose.

The study marked a dramatic leap just a few months ago: at the beginning of the year, less than a quarter of participants showed antibodies, according to the latest national serological survey.
But in the months between the two polls, India was devastated a second massive wave, which overwhelmed the medical system and left people dying outside hospitals, waiting for oxygen or an open bed. The wave lasted from April to June, infecting millions and killing tens of thousands.

The study’s findings, combined with a slow deployment of vaccination, raise concerns about the possibility of a third wave of infections, according to ICMR Director-General Balram Bhargava.

“More than half of the children (ages 6 to 17) were HIV-positive and seroprevalence was similar in rural and urban areas,” he said, but “states, districts and antibody-free areas are at risk of infection.” “That is, about 400 million people will remain vulnerable if it hits a third wave.

Active immunity, which means protection against a disease, is often measured by the presence of antibodies: proteins in the blood, made by the immune system to help fight infections, acquired through previous infection or vaccination.
Vaccinations have intensified in the last two months after the second wave began to subside, but the country is still not even close to its targets. So far, only 6.35% of India’s 1.380 billion population has been completely vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

And the country is still recovering from the second wave. Although new daily infections and the number of active cases have steadily declined, government officials have repeatedly warned citizens against complacency.

“I would like to emphasize today that in resorts and markets, large crowds that do not wear masks or follow protocols is a matter of great concern,” he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, after photos of tourists bouncing Covid protocols appeared in holiday destination cities. “This is not right”.

Cases and deaths little reported

Health workers and scientists have long warned that there are likely to be a real number of cases and deaths. much higher than reported, pointing out the discrepancy between official figures and seroquests.

To date, India has reported about 31.2 million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, less than 3% of its total population and drastically lower than the proportion of respondents who showed antibodies.

There are several reasons behind the gap in the reports, including poor infrastructure, human error and low levels of evidence.

Although test rates have increased since the beginning of the year, there are different case information structures in different cities and states, and poorer residents may not be able to afford free time to test or travel to a test center.

Underinformation is common in the more rural areas of the country, where there are often logistical problems, such as lack of information in the national medical database.

A working paper released Tuesday by the U.S.-based Center for Global Development (USA) found that the number of excess deaths reported during India’s pandemic could be up to ten times the official number of dead, which underscores the seriousness of the problem.

According to the newspaper, between 3.4 and 4.9 million excess deaths were reported in India between January 2020 and June 2021, compared to the death toll of approximately 400,000 from the Indian Ministry of Health. .

On Tuesday, when asked about the unreported deaths in parliament, Mansukh Madaviya, newly appointed Minister of Health of India, said the government “has no reason to hide the deaths”.

“A lot of people have said that the Indian government is hiding the death toll, the Indian government is simply collecting and publishing the figures that the state governments have sent us,” he said.

The study was based on three different estimates of excess deaths, using India’s seroprevalence studies, data on excess deaths from India’s civil registry system, and mortality surveys from India. Center for the Monitoring of the Indian Economy.

Each of these estimates has its limitations and the number of excess deaths reported does not necessarily equate to Covid-specific deaths, the study acknowledges.

But he concluded that the first wave of the pandemic was “more lethal than is popularly believed” and that his estimates show a higher number of deaths reported during the first wave than the second.

“Regardless of the source and estimate, the actual deaths during the Covid pandemic are likely to have been an order of magnitude higher than the official count,” the study noted. “The actual deaths are likely to occur among millions and not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since partition and independence.”

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