Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021 08:30 [IST]

Last Update: Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021 02:49 [IST]

Corona Vaccine: Facts, Myths, Whims & Fancies

Dr. AALOC SRIVASTAV

To escape and skip the deadliest disease of the century ,those who were given first and second shots or 'jab' of vaccine on 16th January and 13th February respectively in the country have reasons to be relieved or satisfied. Are they? Perhaps not. Though by last count, 1.37 crore vaccine doses were administered, the fact remains that a large percentage of drop outs too are being noticed. It not only leads to wastages but gives a sort of psychological set back to the whole process, apart from its possible unfavourable impact on the second planned round.
Dismal Response to Massive Vaccination Drive
On the one hand, health workers mainly and frontline personnel partially, are backing out almost everywhere, which  discourages the planners and controllers apart from changing the attitude of fully involved doctors even. In a nutshell, overall confidence level is likely to be impacted at a this crucial phase.
Emerging Challenges
Some more developments and challenges, namely: emergence of several strains of viruses other than the notorious Kent one, over all deteriorating scenario in Europe, USA, Latin America and Africa; downfall if not exactly flattening of the curve in major portions of India, followed by recent spikes in  Kerala and Maharashtra and a  sort of dormant situation (could be out of wrong reporting) in a handful of states are posing  threats, time and again.
A silver lining seems to be by way of preponement of vaccine programme from mid March to 1st March for 60 plus bracket in addition to including 45 plus populace. It was badly needed.
Setting Examples
Many heads of countries and provinces and renowned Indian experts, such as, Dr. R.Guleria, Dr. K.K. Agrawal & Dr. V.K. Paul have not only taken the 'risk' but taken the lead by volunteering themselves. It  may avoid or cut down levels of suspicions, especially for those professionals in the forefront, themselves having a second opinion, lately.
Effect Period
If one listens to the gospel of Dr.Guleria, those patients taking blood thinners, such as, Ecosprine or anti-platelets like Aspirin can go ahead with the vaccine but only after consulting a physician. It’s a very safe and diplomatic statement, in my opinion.
After taking mandatory two doses, one should be fully protected. The effect , however, could vary from 6 months according to one Dr. Parik to 8 months, as opined by Dr. Guleria.
Perhaps there cannot be fixed time schedule as the new drug itself is being administered for the first time. I would say that the study of case histories of selected SARS -I virus patients could throw some light in the matter.
Fair Play Needed
Another disturbing development is hoarding of vaccines by countries, such as, Canada and ignoring the claims of vaccines  by majority of poor nations of Africa and few from Asia.
Although WHO seems to have woken up after months of uncertainty  and indecision and that 6 lakh doses of vaccine manufactured under 'Covax', global vaccine  sharing scheme in SII, Pune landed  at last in Ghana, these have taken eight months subsequent to launch of the scheme. Such vaccine will be later earmarked for similarly placed countries of Africa according to WHO sources.
Vaccine Target Dates
When it comes to the brass tacks,  however, according to a BBC study, the overall target both of India, China, West Asia & East Africa on the one hand and South East Asia & Africa on the other, may go beyond the targeted "deadline" of December 2022 and December 2023 respectively.
USA and West Europe nations may, however, finish vaccination by end of current calendar year. Looks somewhat ambitious, though.
Limited Supply vs. Rising Demand
Vaccines by seven firms/ manufacturers, namely, Pfizer, Oxford, Moderna, Sinofarm, Sputnik, Sinovac and Bharat Biotech are producing at  enhanced levels than before but the task,per se, is simply daunting.
7.8 billion population has  to be covered globally and never in the past ,such a herculean task was envisaged or undertaken.
Though things are moving at a rapid pace in India presently but even by 2nd Quarter of 2021 enough supplies are not possible.
It may be also noted herein that 3rd round of trial report in respect of Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad should be insisted upon now.
Doubts would persist, unless final clearance is accorded by the DGCI. In fact hurried NOC in the matter was uncalled for.
Intensive Review Needed
So shall we say that we should review the plan to give vaccine to 40 countries. At present, Rs.338 crores worth of vaccines have been supplied already as grants & supplies of commercial nature. AND at the same time, charge them at a slightly higher rate than the rate being paid by the Central Govt. for the vaccines being made available free of cost to the first two category of Indians?
Need to Review Philanthropic Approach
Exceeding the limits of philanthropy by Government of India may not be counterproductive but at the moment there is urgent need to conserve resources. Crucial issues relating to migrant labour and daily wagers are only partially resolved and that the domestic economy is yet to show signs of robust recovery. Slight rise in sale of auto mobiles may not make a dent.
According to a Reuter report, the Indian economy grew by a mere 0.5% in the 3rd quarter of CFY as against  contraction by 23.9 % in the first quarter and 7.5% contraction in the second quarter. So sort of' bright scenarios' painted by IMF and a few rating agencies of USA should not mislead us.
Sensex Does Not Give Adequate Green Signals
We may not feel encouraged also by the baffling phenomena of sudden rise in Sensex, followed by a substantial downfall, followed by yet again a kind of spike. There is nothing great or noticeable about it as similar somersaults have been witnessed in the past and such trend may be seen in future as well.
Once again, I may argue that the mere fact that India could remain unaffected by the last depression in 2008-09 (due to certain inherent strengths associated with tradition bound Indian businessmen), should give us the requisite confidence at the present juncture.
Not only disinvestment should be pursued more vigorously but there has to be slashing of unwanted manpower, together with fixing of responsibility, coupled with discharge/ dismissal for non- performance.
Policy with regard to liberal FDI may also be put on hold for the time being .And last but not the least, present economy drive should remain in force for at least a decade.
Then only we can feel secured from the Corona pandemic as well as the additional, if not the impending deficit.
(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi