Re-infection of the coronavirus is possible even though it is a “very rare” occurrence, ICMR DG Balram Bhargava said on Tuesday, stressing that it is not a serious matter of concern.
The remarks come amid suspected cases of COVID-19 re-infection being reported from abroad and from Indian states such as Telangana, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra.
Answering a question on the issue, Mr Bhargava told a news conference that re-infection was “very, very rare” with COVID-19, but it could happen as seen in a case in Hong Kong.
“We have seen someone get measles and he is supposed to be protected all his life because he generates certain antibodies, but then we saw re-infection that occurs in measles.
“Similarly, we may have re-infection with COVID-19 as described by the case in Hong Kong and it is not a matter of serious concern,” Mr Bhargava said.
At an early news conference, he said he needed to find out how long immunity to the infection lasts.
Regarding the development of coronavirus vaccines, the Director General of ICMR said that three vaccines are in the clinical trial stages in the country and two autochthonous ones developed by Cadila and Bharat Biotech have completed the phase I trial.
The results are being analyzed and they have completed recruitment for the second phase, he said.
The Serum Institute of India has completed phase II-B3 trials of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate. There was a seven-day break. They will begin the Phase III trial with 1,500 patients in 14 countries in India after the cleanup, Mr Bhargava said.
The Inspector General of Drugs of India (DCGI) had instructed the Serum Institute of India to suspend any new recruitment in the phase II and III clinical trial of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate until further orders in the background of pharmacy giant AstraZene stopping clinic trials in other countries.
Speaking about the vaccine developed in Russia, DG ICMR said that their first study with 76 patients was published in the journal Lancet, which “shows good effectiveness and generation of immune antibodies”. He said Russia has not yet completed the Phase III trial.
Dialogues are ongoing between the High Level Vaccine Committee and Russian diplomats regarding the mechanisms for conducting the Phase III trial in India, he said.
British-Swedish bio-pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford said on Saturday that clinical trials for their coronavirus vaccine had resumed in the UK after the Drugs and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed the evidence was confirmed.
Human trials resumed a few days after a break in trials was announced following an adverse reaction in one of the participants.
Addressing a question on the national sero-survey, Mr Bhargava said the survey, which was conducted in April-May and is being repeated after three months, has been completed in 68 out of 70 districts. After analyzing the results by the end of this month, the two studies can be compared, he said.
The senior official added that the sero-survey also brings out the fatality rate of the infection, which was found to be between 0.5-0.6 in the last national sero-survey, which was much lower than in many other countries.