India needs to quicken speed of vaccination, targeted testing to control another Covid wave

The speed of inoculation across India should be increased by supplying the exact doses required by each state

Parvati Sasankan Aug 06, 2021
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Vaccination in India

The month of August has begun on a disconcerting note in India’s fight against the coronavirus infection. Half of the country’s Covid-19 infections are being reported from Kerala, said to be one of India’s most developed states in terms of public health infrastructure.

With around 20,000 fresh cases being added every day from the southern Indian state, it raises concern as Communist-ruled Kerala had an admirable track record during the earlier wave. With Kerala itself now struggling against a severe coronavirus spread, the concern centers around many other states which could be particularly vulnerable against new variants - if and when the country is hit by a third wave of the dreaded virus.

Kerala is, however, not the only point of concern now. Around 11 states are already showing a weekly increase in cases, with the country logging over 44,000 fresh infections and 464 deaths on August 5. It is the third consecutive day that the fresh case count has gone over 40,000.  

The national situation has prompted India’s health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to write to states that all districts reporting a positivity rate of more than 10 percent in the last few weeks ought to consider strict restrictions to curtail the movement of people and gathering of crowds to prevent the spread of the infection. Apart from Kerala, these states include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur.

The authorities have also expressed concern that 46 districts are showing more than 10 percent positivity, while the positivity rate is between five to ten percent in 53 other districts.

Need for immediate action

If left unchecked, there could be a surge in serious infections. Those who lack antibodies are particularly vulnerable. A section of Indians over the age of 45 have received two doses of the Covid vaccine. In the case of Kerala, many people are yet to get their second dose due to a shortage of vaccines.

In some cases, no stock of vaccines is available in health centers. Lockdown fatigue has kicked in in Kerala and the festival of Onam, which is critical to business, is fast approaching. The recent relaxation given during the Eid-ul-Azha festival didn’t help the state, instead, it had earned the ire of the central government due to the increase of Covid cases.

Kerala managed better than most states during the peak of the second wave. It didn’t witness horrifying scenes of patients and ambulances queuing outside hospitals for admissions, oxygen shortages or desperate pleas for drugs like Remdesivir. But now the highly contagious Delta variant has changed the situation.

Those already fully vaccinated also need to be cautious. If immunity wanes in a few months, the Delta or other Covid variants can strike hard, making things difficult for the administration in no time. The speed of vaccine inoculation across India should be increased by supplying the exact doses required by each state.  Targeted testing and serosurveys need to be continued.

(The writer is a Chennai-based journalist. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at parvati663@gmail.com)

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