The Covid-19 virus may reach its endemic stage after a while, just like influenza, and the vulnerable population may have to take the vaccine shot annually, said Samiran Panda, Head, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
“Mutation is normal for all viruses when they proliferate. Experts suggest that the Covid-19 virus will reach its endemic stage like influenza after a while and then the vulnerable population may have to take the vaccine shot annually,” Panda said.
He explained that influenza, commonly known as flu, was a pandemic 100 years ago but today it is an endemic.
“Similarly, in case of Covid-19, we expect that it will gradually become an endemic from its current state of being a pandemic. Currently, we recommend the elderly to take annual flu shots. As the influenza virus keeps on mutating, we simultaneously make minor changes in the vaccine. So, there is no need to panic. The vaccines available now are largely effective against the new variants of Covid-19,” he said.
Panda explained that the vaccines are not infection preventing, but disease-modifying. Experiments at the ICMR have proved that the vaccines presently available in India are effective against the new variants as well. However, the efficacy may differ for different strains, he said.
People are wary that the vaccines that they are receiving now may not be effective after a while, as the virus is mutating rapidly. However, Panda said that it is futile to go for anti-body tests as the immunity does not depend only on anti-bodies.
The anti-bodies that are seen using the commercial kits available in the market are not necessarily the anti-bodies that can protect a person from Covid, he added.
Panda also said that breastfeeding mothers should get themselves vaccinated against Covid-19 without any hesitation. The anti-bodies that are developed in the mother as a result of the vaccination get passively transferred to the baby while breastfeeding and could be helpful to the child, he said.