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Covid19 vaccinations scorecard – 2

I never imagined that I would be writing so many blogs on Covid. Probably into double figures by now. Given the impact of the pandemic on the global scene for more than a year now, I have been following the scorecard of vaccinations across the world. I wrote the first part of the scorecard back in Feb 2021. That was the time the vaccinations were starting. As the vaccinations are progressing, the intensity of the disease  has decreased worldwide from an all  time high a year ago. Fortunes of the countries in the world have been vacillating as they cope with the disease and come up with their recovery strategies.

The US had a very strong start to the vaccination program. They had the two mRNA (snippets of genetic code of life) based vaccines – from Pfizer and Moderna approved towards the end of 2019. With a new President who wanted to get the economy back on its rails, he focused on the logistics of vaccinating the country. It went well till half of the eligible population has been vaccinated. Then it ran into a granite wall. Most of the remaining population refused to take vaccinations while the variants of the virus like the delta variant started attacking. Why the refusal to take vaccinations ?

It is partly political. Lack of belief in scientists and doctors or any kind of experts. It is often said that it is the shepherd who misguides the sheep. Part of the reason is the existence of an anti-vaccine group which existed a decade or two before covid started. It was triggered by an article by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in the prestigious British medical journal “Lancet”. He cast aspersions on the MMR vaccine (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) which is routinely given to infants. Wakefield showed some data which meant side effects from this vaccine. That was enough to create momentum for the new movement. Eventually Wakefield’s claims proved to be false and Lancet retracted the article in 2010. But the damage was done. And the movement he ignited persisted.

 

While the US does not have herd immunity yet, and with exposure to variants, it has resorted back to wearing masks in public regardless of one’s vaccination status. This again has run into political headwinds with some people wanting their “freedom” and not a “mandate”. Given these constraints, the number of cases and deaths are high, it will take a while before the US can claim to have crossed the bridge. Sounds something like the dark ages of medieval Europe which eventually needed scientific and artistic enlightenment called renaissance to come to the rescue.

Israel was very successful in vaccinating a vast majority of its population.Pretty close to herd immunity. Then they opened up the economy and the society at large. This was made possible because the erstwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu struck a deal with Pfizer to supply enough doses for his people. Then the delta variant hit and the country went into a crisis mode. There seems to be no reasons why Israel is going through this crisis. My take is that its population is too homogeneous, and Arabs may not have been included in such vaccination initiatives. This might have created vulnerability to genetic variants of the virus. This is pure speculation on my part and does not represent any racial bias nor any kind of scientific expertise. I have neither.

The UK is another country where most of the population is vaccinated due to their aggressive strategy and the fact that one of the vaccines from AstraZeneca is a home grown one, with a good manufacturing base. But watching the recent test cricket series being played between India and England in England, with a full stadium, I am beginning to have doubts regarding the variant comeback. But again, the UK is a relatively diverse country with a large immigrant base. Let us see how it works out.

Last but not least, I come to India. What looked like an unmitigated disaster a few months ago has turned the corner. The vaccine shortage is easing up, given that a second homegrown vaccine ZyCov-D is approved and is on track to have deliveries starting by the end of September 2021. I am impressed with this vaccine since it is based on DNA (basic genetic code of life), which is a new concept in the development of vaccines. It is first in the world of its kind. Like mRNA based vaccines, DNA based vaccines remained in research labs for some time. And the advent of pandemic accelerated their adoption to human beings. With vaccination rates looking up, cases looking down, with two homegrown vaccines at work and being a host to world’s largest vaccine maker SEI (Serum Institute of India), things could not be looking better for India. At this rate, I am fairly confident that most of the population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021. The upcoming festival season could still play the spoiler though. Going by the past lessons, the guard should not be lowered.

2022 would be the year when the rest of the world who do not have their own vaccines, will get vaccinated. Hopefully by the end of 2022, mankind will have turned a corner. And no one should forget the lessons for as long as the memory survives.

 

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Prasad Ganti

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Navneet Bakshi
1 month ago

Considering the complexity of governing India, its illiteracy, and orthodoxy, what GOI has achieved is indeed remarkable. From the terrifying state at the peak of the Second wave to now 70 Cr. doses already given, it’s quite an achievement I would. Though we are yet a long way to go but with more vaccines coming up, things really seem to be looking up. In comparison, though the U.S. is a long way ahead we don’t have the kind of resistance and obduracy that we see in America. I was not even aware of the extreme resistance to any kind of allopathic treatment and even education that existed in America until I read Tara Westwood’s novel “Educated.” And I don’t think those people are ever going to get vaccinated. People of such rigid beliefs must be there all over the world and I am afraid that such people will stand as impediments on the path of victory over this pandemic.

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