Building strong immunity may be the best way to fight COVID-19: Dr Velumani of Thyrocare

Amid the focus on developing a vaccine for COVID-19, Thyrocare MD Dr A Velumani says staying cooped up at home is not the way out of the pandemic. Exposure to the virus can help build a strong immune system, which may be ‘the best way to fight COVID-19 virus’.
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Big pharma might be racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, but Dr A Velumani, the Managing Director of Thyrocare, believes the best way to fight the coronavirus pandemic is to activate the bodý’s final line of defence: the immune response.

 

Dr Velumani A, Thyrocare,

Image credit: Bizencyclopedia



Speaking to YourStory Media Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Dr Velumani said people exposed to the virus will “build an immunity against the infection”, adding that India might have an advantage over other countries due to the high level of immunity among some people.

Researchers believe the reason COVID-19 poses such a high risk is because the immune response among the populace is diverse and unpredictable. In some, it kills; in others, it shows up as a mild infection.

Dr Velumani had recently posted on Twitter that after conducting 60,000 antibody tests across 600 pin codes over 20 days, results “guesstimated” that 15 percent Indians – comprising 18 crore of the population – had developed antibodies against SARS-Cov2 and had been immunised in India.

Dr Velumani said COVID-19 had elicited “an immune response from Indians”, and that almost 10,000 people may have been getting exposed to the virus every day without “getting infected or falling sick”.

"People need to be exposed to the virus to build immunity and antibodies. However, it is also a risk because people with weak immunity will be infected,” he said. 

He added that the number of tests being done was currently low, but Thyrocare expected to complete 1.2 lakh antibody tests by July end, and would be better placed to arrive at a more informed conclusion.

‘Might not need vaccine after March 2021’

Dr Velumani said the COVID-19 virus progressed quickly, but development of a vaccine was a slow process. He added that while scientists were working desperately to develop a vaccine to immunise people against the novel coronavirus, history had shown that development of vaccines was “nearly impossible within one year”.

“We might not need a vaccine after March 2021 as the current 15 percent of people with antibodies (globally) may go up to 30-40 percent by then, which will help us balance the situation. Cities that already have 40-50 percent of people with antibodies may be a little more relieved,” he said.

Dr Velumani said people often believe that money or drugs are saving humankind, but the fact is that the human body has 30 billion lymphocytes (immune cells), whose sole purpose is to kill harmful foreign microbes and pathogens entering the body.

“Unknowingly, we have been fighting a lot of pathogens in our day-to-day life. Our immune system produces antibodies when it encounters foreign bodies. When the pathogens enter, the body struggles for probably 15 to 20 days, but it becomes immunised later - either by a vaccine or the virus. The lymphocytes remember this and when pathogens enter the second time, the body fights back within 72 hours to four days,” he said. 

He added that statistics showed that India and other Asian countries were recording lower death rates than other countries. The death rate due to COVID-19 was higher in countries where the population had a higher mean age. “Old age compromises immunity, and countries with lower mean age benefit as some people may have stronger immunity,” he said. 

The Thyrocare founder said the virus had caused more deaths among those aged over 50 to 55 years. “However, the possibility of young people succumbing to the disease cannot be ruled out. Many young people who lost their lives to the pandemic may have been low on their immunity,” he said. 

The grey areas of COVID-19

 Dr Velumani also touched upon the grey areas in the spread of COVID-19 and death rate statistics. 

“Only those who have tested positive are being considered as infected. India cannot afford to test every single citizen of the country, and current statistics on the infected group might be just a sector of the total infected population,” he said. 

He added that the data may not be complete as many people dying from other issues may also have been infected with COVID-19. These may or may not be considered coronavirus-related deaths. 

SARS-Cov2 has a very high rate of spreading and can reach 15 to 20 crore of the Indian population despite lockdowns. 

He said the first and the second lockdown were important for people to gauge the situation, but the third and the fourth ones were imposed amid panic, which had “cost the economy”. 

Dr Velumani reiterated the importance of taking precautions, wearing masks, and maintaining hand hygiene to stay safe from the virus. “But, building strong immunity may be the best way to develop antibodies and fight the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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