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The Tacit Third Wave

The turn of this decade was the worst of times, as COVID-19 was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. It forced countries into lockdowns, pushed healthcare systems beyond their limits, and tested our ability to withstand change at a speed and scale we have never done before.

Source – Worldometer

The first wave of Covid-19 which peaked around September 2020 witnessed a more vulnerable older population compared to the younger population. According to the ICMR, more than 70 per cent of the cases reported had patients above 40 years of age. Six months after the peak, the cases in India were again on the rise in the first week of March 2021.

Lack of planning, which led to the shortage of oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and all other essential supplies, instilled fear in each and every individual across the country. Moreover, the resources which were created in the first wave, such as the first-line treatment centres, closed down after the first wave, adding to the distress of the common mass.

The ferocious second wave was a result of several new variants which were more transmissible and better at evading immunity than the ones against which the vaccines had been developed. There is inconsistency in the number of waves that a country has and the gap between the same.

It depends on the number of people getting vaccinated and the number of mutations of the virus, and human behaviour after a relaxation in restrictions imposed by the government. Since the latter largely depends on the psychology of different individuals, the promise by the Indian government to vaccinate all adults by 2021 seems controllable and reliable.

Source – Twitter

Currently, there are two locally-made vaccines- Covishield (by the Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (by Bharat Biotech) and Sputnik V, which was approved in April with three million doses delivered by Russia. This, along with the two billion vaccines that the government has decided to provide in the second half of this year, should suffice given the adult population of the country (according to the 2011 census).

But, the production of these vaccines falls short of the planned supply, which disrupts its availability and consequently makes it difficult to curb the “third wave”.

While the vaccines are effective, medical research reports suggest that two doses are 90% effective as compared to only 33% efficacy after the first dose of Covishield. At present, the biggest concern is that only a very small proportion of the population has had two vaccinations as the gap between the doses is 85 days.

On the other hand, the ICMR states that the antibody response might not be the same if Covaxin was taken after such a long period. As has been reported, there are going to be no changes in the interval between the two doses so that more people receive the first dose. This vision seems shortsighted as the immunity provided by the first dose of these vaccines is unreasonable. Moreover, this decision was taken prior to the prevalence of the delta variant in the country.

A lot of the extent of the third wave depends on the people of the country itself. Getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and maintaining adequate social distancing are the three primary things that have to be followed in order to control and avoid a devastating third strain. The fear of dying after getting vaccinated – “Deaths after Shots” – is all-pervasive but it is all the more observed in rural areas where people are uninformed and reluctant to get inoculated.

Moreover, the people living in these rural areas are less likely to have health insurance which makes it difficult for them to receive the required medical aid if they contract Covid. Since more than 50% of the population of India lives in rural areas, it is important that the centre and the states work towards improving their living conditions, making them less susceptible and socially vulnerable to this virus.

Source – People Matters

The experts differ on the severity of the third wave. Some believe that if the vaccination drive is not implemented systematically in the rural and urban areas, there can be more mutations of the said virus as lockdowns are only a temporary solution. The others believe that the subsequent waves will be weaker as there is a lower percentage of susceptible people because some of them have already gained immunity.

But there is unanimity in accepting that children could be the most easily found hosts as their immunity has weakened remaining confined to their homes and a search for vaccines for them remains on.

A third wave, therefore, is likely to take place sooner or later as the new delta plus variant has created fresh concerns across the country. But, the mutations depend on the extent to which people follow the guidelines issued by their respective state governments and the vigilance and precautions they take in public and private places.

Written by- Adrija Poddar

Edited by- Oishika Ghoshal

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