Vaccination a solution to prevent third wave: Expert

Vaccination is the solution to prevent third wave: Expert

Letting down our guard too fast and too wide (religious events and elections) contributed to the rapid spread, Dr T Jacob John said

On Wednesday, the government had announced that the third wave is inevitable. Credit: PTI Photo

As frantic calls for beds, oxygen and medicines continue to amplify amidst the looming second wave of Covid-19, the fear of a third wave is fuelling the anxiety of an overwhelmed nation.

On Wednesday, the government had announced that the third wave is inevitable.  

“As we are reeling under the burden of the second wave, talking about a future third wave — that we do not know will come at all or its magnitude — is distracting the government on what it must do now,” points out Dr T Jacob John, eminent virologist and retired professor, CMC (Vellore).

“If the government can do justice with vaccination, even the unlikely probability of a third wave can be mitigated. In other words, with vaccines available since January 3, 2021, the third wave can be and must be prevented with vaccination." 

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But if the third wave occurs, Dr John says the main factor could be a lack of sufficient vaccination. “Emergence of highly transmissible variants could be another factor.  However, the two waves would have created high “herd immunity” and topped up with even a moderate level of vaccination will surely avert the third wave.”

Meanwhile, as on Wednesday 3.80 lakh new Covid-19 cases and 3,369 deaths were reported across the country. As the second wave continues to lash unabated, Dr John explains what went wrong in controlling it.

What went wrong

“Letting down our guard too fast and too wide (religious events and elections) contributed to the rapid spread and bringing in fast-spreading variants that would have reached West Bengal and UP very slowly had these events not been held."

By all means, Covid has brought to light a broken public healthcare system and Dr John points out that India’s health management system is woefully inadequate even during normal times. “For one, India does not have public health infrastructure, for which reason pandemic control was entrusted with the National Disaster Management Agency, a frank admission of lack of public health.”

“As for healthcare, we have been working under grossly inadequate bed strength, doctors and nurses, so we did not have surge capacity when needed. The first wave grew very slowly and India barely managed. 

"The second wave was too much too fast and the healthcare infrastructure was overwhelmed.  This pandemic is an oxygen consumer and sudden expansion of demand could not be met."  

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With the public patiently waiting to get inoculated amidst a short supply, Dr John attributes vaccine shortage to “bad management, wrong prediction of need, lack of advance order and lack of willingness to take legitimate risks to protect human lives”. “If Indian companies cannot meet the demand, we must import vaccines from any source."  

As far as extending the lockdown is concerned, he avers that the right time for a humane and effective lockdown is long past. “Anyway, lockdown is not the panacea. Now the wave is racing towards the peak, which, in my estimation, is round the corner. The wave itself will slow down the spread from early next week.

"If at all, a short and well-planned lockdown, maximum of one week, with full information to the public may be justified."