More than half of India’s population could be immune by September, the hospital director says

According to the executive director of a local health group, at least 55% of the Indian population should be immune to Covid-19 by September, propelling the country towards population immunity.

Suneeta Reddy of Apollo Hospitals said that around 122 million doses of vaccines have been given since it started in India in January.

“We currently believe that we should achieve some herd immunity at this rate by September,” she told CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Monday. Herd immunity refers to a point at which a large portion of the population is immune to a disease through vaccination or infection, thereby preventing the disease from spreading widely within the community.

India has the second highest number of coronavirus cases worldwide with more than 15.3 million reported cases and at least 178,000 Covid-19 deaths. This is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Last week, the country’s richest state, Maharashtra, was locked down again, while New Delhi announced a six-day lockdown on Monday.

According to Reddy, state governments work closely with the private sector and there are plans for vaccinations. The country’s health ministry said Tuesday morning that 109 million people received at least one dose of the vaccine and 17 million received the second shot.

However, the World Health Organization has warned that initial reports from South Africa show that those who recover from the coronavirus can be re-infected with new and contagious variants. Early results also suggest that Covid vaccines may be less effective at protecting against new strains – although vaccines can reduce the severity of infection.

I’m sure we would have at least 55% (immunity) by September.

Suneeta Reddy

Apollo hospitals

Apollo Hospitals is a healthcare chain that operates at least 70 hospitals and more than 170 primary care and diagnostic clinics worldwide, according to the Chennai-based company’s website.

“With the first wave of Covid, there were some cities that hit the big ones close to 20% (immunity),” Reddy said. “I’m sure we would have achieved at least 55% by September.”

‘Out of control’

Steve Cochrane, chief economist for Asia Pacific at Moody’s Analytics, said India’s economy had a “very, very strong fourth quarter” last year and it looks like it is recovering faster than other countries.

“Then Covid came back and now it seems completely out of control,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Monday.

“I think they’ll have a hard time getting this under control,” he said.

Reddy of Apollo Hospitals noted that cases had increased “dramatically” but said the group had sufficient resources to handle the increase.

A man riding his bike on a street in Old New Delhi on April 19, 2021 as India’s capital is due to impose a week-long lockdown starting tonight, officials said as the megacity struggles to contain a huge surge in Covid-19 Cases with hospitals running out of beds and having low oxygen supplies.

Sajjad Hussain | AFP | Getty Images

According to Reddy, hospitals provide around 60% of their capacity for Covid-19 patients and also use hotel rooms to care for patients.

“What we’re seeing is … a pretty mild version of the virus, so it requires a lot less ventilation than we’ve seen before,” Reddy said.

“There are protocols in place, we have adequate medication. Some states may be starved of oxygen, but we’re not seeing a shortage in the entire Apollo system,” she said.

Local media have reported a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen. The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, tweeted on Sunday that the city was facing an “acute lack of oxygen” and had become an emergency.

– CNBC’s Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.

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