Karan Thapar and Dr N.K. Arora. Photo: The Wire
N.K. Arora, chairman of the COVID-19 Working Group of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), has said it’s dangerous to talk about COVID-19 reaching endemicity when 30% of India’s population is still susceptible to COVID-19. As he put it, 40-44 crore people are still vulnerable to infection. “At this time, to say we are reaching endemicity could breed complacency.”
In a 50-minute interview for The Wire, Arora also said that if there is a third wave, he doesn’t expect it to be as ferocious as the second. However, he said it is by no means guaranteed to be limited to local areas and regions; it could still become nationwide.
His views differ markedly from those of Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO; Gagandeep Kang, virologist and member of the COVID-19 Working Group of NTAGI; and Sujeet Kumar Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control.
Arora answered questions about whether booster doses are needed for specific sections of the population. Speaking particularly about health workers, he seemed to disagree with the view that they are most at risk, arguing instead that their daily exposure to infection could actually bolster their immunity.
Overall, it was a comprehensive interview that addressed, in a detailed manner, many critical issues such as endemicity; the possibility of a third wave and whether it will be local or regional; the present overall national picture; the precise situation in Kerala; vaccination, exports and booster shots; and the possibility of worrying variants occurring even though there has been none for 4-5 months. Please watch the full interview to understand and appreciate all the issues on which Arora has willingly, forthrightly and fairly comprehensively answered questions.