WHO: Europe is the epicenter of pandemic despite vaccines

Why rising Covid cases in Europe are a reason for worry in Kerala

India News

The rising curve of Covid-19 infections in European countries, especially among fully vaccinated people there, can be worrying for a state like Kerala, where breakthrough infections are spiking each day, said a member of the state’s expert panel.

Germany, whose 67.2 per cent population is fully inoculated, reported over 50,000 cases Thursday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. UK, one of the worst-affected countries in Europe in terms of Covid fatalities, has also been reporting in excess of 35,000 cases this week.

Europe saw a six per cent increase in new infections last week compared with the week before, and a corresponding 12 per cent rise in deaths. The WHO said Europe was at a ‘critical point’ and could be seeing a spurt in cases due to ‘uneven vaccine coverage’ and premature relaxation of restrictions.

Dr Anish TS, a member of the expert committee advising the Kerala government on Covid-19, said, “It is worrying for us because Kerala is more epidemiologically similar to the European countries than other Indian states. What’s happening there could have similar results here. Why (cases are rising) in Europe is an important question. Is it because the effects of the vaccines are waning? Or since it’s winter there right now, there will be more closed interactions. It could be because of such social factors, we still don’t know it yet. So it’s certainly alarming for us.”

But the last seroprevalence survey conducted in Kerala, which pointed to antibodies among 82 per cent of the population, offers hope, he said. “It’s clear that we cannot drop our guard right now. But we hope to tide over (any possible) wave,” he said.

In Kerala, 95.3 per cent of the eligible population have got the first dose and 56.1 per cent both doses of the Covid vaccine. In terms of vaccination per million population in the country, Kerala occupies the top spot, claimed health minister Veena George.

But the trend of increasing breakthrough infections each week in the state holds on. On Thursday, a whopping 47 per cent of the new cases were found among those who had taken both doses of the vaccine. Another 20 per cent had taken the first dose and 31 per cent were reported to be unvaccinated. However, declining hospitalisation and demand for oxygen and ICU beds in the state suggests that vaccines are proving to protect those infected from serious repercussions.

The health department said that of the 74,976 cases reported between Nov 3 and Nov 9, only 1.7 per cent of them needed oxygen beds and 1.4 per cent ICU beds.

“Almost all the breakthrough infections are not very severe. Comparatively, death rates are low. Such data is very consistent with that from European countries. In other Indian states, breakthrough infections are perhaps not being captured, it may be very mild so that the (health) system doesn’t capture it. That may be one reason. The second reason is natural infections are quite high in other states. So it will be a sterilising kind of immunity where there will be no infections at all. Those who have been infected with the Delta variant of the virus once may not get infected again at all,” said Dr Anish.

“If you look at the pattern of sterilising immunity, the prevalence of it is quite low in Kerala. The sero-prevalence study has data on that. In Kerala, more people have immunity via the vaccine, so they are more prone to breakthrough infections.”

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