Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ramp up vaccination

Editorial 2

There are many myths about vaccination in our state. The first one is a figurative one – complete vaccination in some villages. As per news report, many villages in the state have achieved 100% vaccination. But these achievements could just be a misleading number. In these villages, 100% of the population has taken only the first dose of the vaccine. The second and the decisive dose reportedly is underway, and yet to cover a substantial number. According to data, as on 23rd July, 5,92,869 people in Nagaland have got the first dose and only 1,37,013 has taken the second dose. The question is: Is one dose enough? Experts say the beginning and the first dose is good but not good enough against Covid-19 variants. Recent research has also shown that one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield) vaccine has 18% efficacy against the Delta variant while the second dose takes it up to 60%. Even with the Pfizer vaccine, the first dose gives 30% protection, the second dose boosting it up to 79%. That is why the second dose has been recommended and data suggests that we need to have a second dose of the same vaccine. The immune response to one dose of the vaccine is relatively weak, as per studies, even though people who got their first dose had some protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection. It is not known what will happen if people get only one dose. There is a serious concern though. It is possible that people who get only one dose will have only partial immunity to COVID-19 infection, resulting in a higher risk that vaccine-resistant variants of SARS-CoV-2 will develop. The more dangerous one and the one that is evident from public behavior in Nagaland is that people who get only one dose think they have sufficient protection against COVID-19 infection and there is no need to get a second dose. But there is no evidence to make us believe that people who get only one dose have adequate long term protection against COVID-19 infection. The Government of India had earlier issued instructions to functionaries across states and UTs that there should be a gap of three months between the two doses. Currently, this is the practice in vogue although it has come under criticism from many quarters. Arguments have been made that because Covid-19 is such a serious disease that is rapidly spreading throughout the world and because vaccines can be made and delivered at a relatively slow rate, a first dose should be given and the second dose delayed until a large amount of the population receives the first dose. Indeed it is always better to give every eligible person some protection rather than giving some full protection to few and leaving the majority unprotected. However, we need proactive preparedness and planning to provide second jab on time so as to enable recipients achieve considerable immunity against various circulating variants of COVID causing virus. Efforts also need to be strengthened to vaccinate the young people, 18 years and above, the majority of who are still unvaccinated. The 18-44 age group forms the bulk of our population, and they are the vulnerable due to their being the most out of home section. People in this age group are students or working and mix the most with other people and get infection. Moreover, they have the propensity to spread infection among their families and in the social circles they are in. As per available data (23rd July), 3,36,258 people in the 18-44 age group have taken the first dose, while only 270 have taken the second dose. Clearly the best protection against a likely third wave is a high vaccination rate among all eligible population groups. The rumours associated with vaccination need to be refuted with sustained efforts and various youth organizations, clubs, community leaders and influencers should be roped in to motivate and influence the youth to achieve the target. We need to ramp up our vaccinations and maintain the behavioral practices for preventing the infection. Even though the numbers have come down, COVID is not gone and going by the global trends we could be facing another wave soon.