With large scale vaccinations helping prevent severity of the Covid-19 pandemic despite large scale infections in the third wave, India should now focus on lifting curfews and strict restrictions to help the country regain normalcy, says Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson of India's premier biopharmaceutical company Biocon.
"Vaccinations have played a very big role in muting the virus, even though we've got a huge outbreak of the Omicron variant (which is very transmissible and has infected people in large numbers). The fact is that no one really has got severe disease as 99.9% of the infected got only very mild or moderate disease. Certainly there's enough evidence to show that the infection is restricted to the upper respiratory tract and doesn't really attack your lungs like the other variants. It is also showing that most of the victims of Omicron are basically only reporting fever, headaches, cold and cough, and very few have got breathing problems, which means that the lungs are being spared. I would personally like to get back to normal life and we should not be paranoid anymore," she said in an exclusive interaction with Fortune India.
Lauding the decision of the Karnataka government to lift weekend curfews, she said now it makes no sense as curfews and lockdowns have not proven helpful in curbing this pandemic. "Psychologically, it might give you a feeling that you're doing something, and that you're protecting people, but you're not in reality. If all these lockdowns and curfews did help, you wouldn't have such large numbers of infections. I believe testing should be for symptomatic people and we should get back to normal functioning and life. Earlier, when we had flu we did come to work, and today at the slightest signs of flu, everyone is forced to be quarantined," notes Mazumdar-Shaw.
The Biocon executive chairperson, who is also one of the leading biotech expert scientists, says it is going to be extremely important to vaccinate children and take booster doses. "Boosters are good at boosting immunity, because it's not going to stop transmission of the virus, but it will certainly help you to fight off the virus faster. We should start giving boosters annually like the flu shot," she says.
Vaccines have muted the virus and now more treatment options are available with antivirals, antibody cocktails and other different treatment options. But no one can predict when this pandemic will end and whether the virus will mutate further and become more lethal, she cautioned.
The pandemic has also helped the country develop diagnostic and testing capabilities especially for home testing and support ecosystem, besides proving our mass vaccine manufacturing capabilities, she said.