No country in the world can defeat Covid-19 by ramping up its healthcare facilities alone. India is no exception. Prevention has to accompany treatment. If we have to win the war against the novel coronavirus, there is a need to not only address the shortage of Intensive Care Units (ICUs), oxygen supply, ambulances, and life-saving medicines but also undertake preventive measures like vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour, including wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and following practice of hand hygiene.
Vaccination has enabled countries like Israel overcome the ongoing wave of Covid-19 and reclaim life as in pre-pandemic times. Vaccination of most of its adults with Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has helped the country with a population of more than 9,000,000 to bring down drastically severe acute coronavirus infections to low hundreds and consequently hospitalisation, leading to lifting of most of the lockdown restrictions.
Says Dr Ron Malka, Ambassador of Israel to India: “Vaccination is the key to defeating this global pandemic. This is the strategy of Israel and it works very well. Mass vaccination has enabled us to resume our normal lives to a great extent.” He was responding to a query from this writer. Israel is not resting as yet but set to buy vaccines for use in 2022, too.
In another instance, the Seychelles, which has vaccinated the highest percentage of its population in the world, more than that of Israel, has been hit by a spike of Covid-19 cases overtaking even India on a per capita basis. The infected included one-third of those who have got both doses, but no one of them has been reported to have got a severe infection or died.
As a precautionary measure, the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands has closed schools, reimposed timing restrictions on shops and restaurants, and banned gatherings and sports activities. China’s Sinopharm and AstraZeneca’s Covishield produced in India have been administered in the country with a population of less than 100,000. It may be noted that the efficacy of both these vaccines is reported to be lower than that of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
In India, there are media reports of some people, who have got two doses of vaccination, having got reinfected, which is causing vaccine hesitancy in some sections of the society. Such media reports are a matter of scientific investigation in a country where about 18 crore doses of vaccine have been administered so far. Only China and the US have administered more vaccine doses.
Having said that, what we understand unambiguously as of now is that Covid-19 can kill people and vaccination can save lives. As in the case of other vaccines, 100% effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines may be ruled out, but these reduce severity of infection and instances of hospitalisation and death. “Developing immunity through vaccination means there is a reduced risk of developing the illness and its consequences,” underlines the World Health Organization (WHO).
Covid-19 vaccination may not be the silver bullet to defeat the novel coronavirus, but as of now, it is the most important weapon in the arsenal to prevent, manage and overcome the pandemic. Emphasises Israeli ambassador Dr Malka, “The people of India should get vaccinated as soon as they can, and until then to do whatever they can to avoid infection.”
And if vaccination is supported by Covid-appropriate behaviour, it increases the chances of scoring over the novel coronavirus. Since India is also facing vaccine shortage at the moment, it makes the case stronger for following the practice of hand hygiene, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in public places in the meantime. The two-pronged approach of vaccination and Covid-appropriate behaviour would go a long way in fighting not only this wave but also future waves of the pandemic.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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