New Delhi: VK Paul, NITI Aayog's Member (Health), on Monday expressed hope that the third wave of COVID-19 can be prevented by following appropriate behaviour trained by the government.
Paul's remarks came during the 28th meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on the pandemic situation. He stressed that India is fully prepared but caution remains the key as lockdowns are relaxed and expressed hope that ‘the third wave can be prevented if we continue following the COVID appropriate behaviour’.
Paul noted that the country took 141 days to reach 23 crore mark in terms of cumulative doses administered, which remains the second highest around the globe after the US, which did in 134 days.
“Out of 88.7 crore people who have been administered at least one dose globally, India accounts for 17.9 crore, which is 20.2 percentage of the global coverage. Also, India is one of the world's fastest countries in terms of number of doses administered so far,” Paul, who heads the country’s Covid-19 national task force added. The meeting chaired by Union Health Minister was also attended by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep S Puri, Minister of state for Home Nityanand Rai and Minister of State for Health Ashwini Kumar Choubey.
VK Paul also stressed that the pandemic situation had not improved because of the virus behaviour. “If we again begin doing what we were doing as a society in December, January, the situation can again go into a problematic phase,” he said.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE WAVE?
There is no actual definition of what defines a wave in an epidemic. The term is used generically to call the increasing and declining trends of infections over a continued period of time. The growth curve looks like the shape of a wave. Factually, the term wave used to refer to the seasonality of the disease. Multiple viral infections are seasonal in nature, and they persist after some period of time. Infections rise and then fall down, only to go up after some time. In the country so far, there have been two very distinct periods of rise, separated by a prolonged break.
THIRD WAVE, A BIG THREAT?
The first wave usually affects the most vulnerable sections of the population–the elderly, people with co-morbidities and the immuno-compromised. The second wave started when the epidemic spread into the general population, which did not have got the infection during the first wave and who didn’t have protective antibodies against the pathogen. The second and third waves of the infection are amid to mutant strains, which may partially escape the immunity offered by previous infections.
Since the second wave was expected to be feebler than the first, many were misled into believing that the pandemic was concluding. With the lessons learnt in every possible manner, many predict that the third wave might be even stronger.
Multiple experts have also stated that while a third wave of the pandemic is a real threat and could occur given the still large number of people who may be vulnerable to the infection, it is difficult to predict its timing and intensity.
Some doctors have even forecasted that the third wave, when hit, may create problems among children who have largely been unaffected so far and may be left completely uncovered through vaccination coverage but the government authorities and other experts have dismissed these threats.
VACCINATION, THE REAL SAVIOUR?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the Centre would take over the task of vaccination from state governments and provide vaccines free of cost to all adults (above 18+) from later this month. "It has been decided that from June 21, all adults over the age of 18 will be vaccinated free," PM Modi said in an address to the nation on Monday.
Thus many health experts believe that available vaccines are the strongest tool that we have against the novel virus. Though we do not have data on the level of protection offered by the various vaccines against the strains, many experts believe that some degree of protection against serious infections do exist. Therefore, relying on vaccines is the most rational way to avert a third wave.
Besides vaccination, we should also object to improve the surveillance systems with regard to rapid documentation of cases by ramping up the level of testing and strict isolation procedures, strengthening of protocols regarding containment zones–that could come a long way in restricting the further spread.
(With agency inputs)