It has been one and a half years since the world has been in pandemic mode. Initially the virus caught us off-guard when it started to spread to different parts of the world. As the virus was unknown and our healthcare infrastructure needed time to prepare to handle the magnitude of havoc the virus was about to wreck, the nation went into lockdown. There was no known method of treatment or medicine that would effectively counter this virus when the pandemic started. But thanks to the quick turnaround time of our healthcare professionals and researchers, we now have more knowledge about the virus. Today we have hands-on experience in treating the Covid patients and more than that we have vaccination to fight this infection.
Let us go back in time when several infectious diseases had gripped the world. Chickenpox, measles, mumps, polio and other common diseases were brought under control through vaccines. When the majority of the population is vaccinated, the minor population with the disease cannot spread it. Thus, the spread of the disease is curbed. Now, we need that large scale vaccination to happen to bring the raging coronavirus under control.
What about Herd immunity?
As of May first week, the Covid R rate (reproductive rate) stands at 1.44 per cent of the population. What does this figure mean? It indicates that a covid infected individual is spreading it to one and a half people. So are we heading towards herd immunity? For the people who do not know, herd immunity is when the majority of the population has been naturally infected with a disease and have developed antibodies against it or have been vaccinated. If that happens the infected person can spread it to only people who aren't immune thus applying brakes on the spread.
For a country like India which has the second-largest population in the world, letting people get infected until most of them are immune and halt the spread will lead to the death of millions of people. It should be noted that children will be born without immunity and gradually there will be more people susceptible to the infection. That's why herd immunity is temporary and cannot be implemented in the case of coronavirus. A large part of the population is still vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and this indicates that we are nowhere near herd immunity.
Third-wave is inevitable
India is in the second wave of COVID-19. Other countries have witnessed the third wave and are gearing up for the fourth wave. Experts have predicted that a third wave is inevitable and we should be prepared for new waves. New variants of the virus are being found in India and all over the world which are capable of increasing transmission. Even immune evasive variants will emerge in future and we need to be prepared for all these.
Vaccination is the best weapon
The best way to fight the virus is through inoculation. Getting the jab and protecting ourselves has to be the priority. Over 2.5 crore people in India have already received both doses of the vaccines. However, what is hindering the progress in inoculation drive is the unavailability of vaccines. Though the central government has given a go ahead to inoculate people above the age group of 18 starting from May 1st, the process has been either delayed or stalled by the state governments due to reduced production or unavailability of both vaccines Covishied and Covaxin. Now the first priority is given to people who are yet to receive their second dose of vaccine.
Inoculating children is gaining prominence as now it is evident that kids are also susceptible to this virus with the increasing number of cases. Vaccine manufacturing companies have already received approval and have started their trials in order to get the vaccine for the kids which has brought hope among parents. Soon after the trial, people from all age groups are going to get vaccinated which will help in eradicating this virus.
It is important for everyone to understand the significance of vaccines and take the jab as soon as they are made available. Along with the vaccine, follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, stay away from the crowd and keep your spirits high and we all shall be able to tide over this.
By Dr. Pradeep Rangappa, Senior Consultant - Critical Care, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur (A unit of Manipal Hospitals)