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The Financial Express

Herd immunity is likely to prove illusive

| Updated: August 16, 2021 22:06:24


Herd immunity is likely to prove illusive

In a surprise move the government has eased the lockdown, allowing near normal life to go on from August 11. Offices --- both government and private---, financial institutes, shops, malls and markets, food outlets, hotels and restaurants have been allowed to resume operation. Only hotels and restaurants have been asked to remain open at half the capacity from 8 am to 10 pm. Even tourist spots such as sea beaches are going to receive visitors.

The impression is that the country has left behind the worst days and life can return to what is called neo-normal, if not normal. Had this been the ground reality, no one would find any reason to complain. True, the rate of infections has come down to around 20 per cent from 30 plus per cent in the past week and even the number of death has also dropped below 200 but both figures are still high. Patients scramble for hospital beds and ICU (intensive care unit) admission. Their near and dear ones have to move from one dedicated corona hospital to another unsuccessfully because facilities are full to the brim.

It is against such a background, allowing offices and businesses to operate in full gear looks anachronistic, if not preposterous. The decision on operation of transports in full capacity but half the number of the total vehicles of each company defies all rational explanations. Had it been the other way round that is all the fit vehicles running with passengers half the capacity, maintaining physical distancing, it would make sense.

No denying the fact that people --- not just those whose mere survival is at stake --- were itching for getting out because they were compelled to stay put for far too long. The administration may have felt their pulse and taken this decision peremptorily. However, it went for this decision not before launching a mass vaccination drive. Sure enough, such a drive would have made a most discernible impact had the government been able to procure enough vaccines for inoculation of people willing to receive the jabs. In fact, more people had to turn away frustrated than the fortunate who were administered the first dose of vaccine.

On this count, people in this country, unlike their counterparts even in some highly developed countries, have set an example by demonstrating their eagerness to get inoculated. Their awareness is more than appreciable. If only this awareness would have matched that of their personal protection! In this matter, their indifference cannot be condoned. Face masks, many of them consider, are not mandatory in a crowded place let alone physical distancing.

It is a mistaken idea that vaccination alone will help people remain immune to coronavirus. No, the Delta variant does not spare any one whether inoculated or not. The only silver lining is that if vaccinated --- even with one dose ---chances are that one may not have to be hospitalised for ICU treatment. In rare cases, have patients taken admission to hospital for ICU treatment and died.

What all this means is not particularly disappointing nor highly encouraging. It is not disappointing because, at least vaccine provides enough protection against severe condition of Covid-19. Not encouraging, because the coveted herd immunity may remain illusive. In the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Russia and in several South-east Asian countries and Australia both death and infection are on the rise once again. The USA and UK are contemplating to administer a booster dose to their citizens. In this connection, Chairman of Serum Institute, Cyrus S. Poonawalla's claim that it is necessary to take a booster dose within six months may throw some light on the issue. After taking the third dose on Friday last, he stated that the antibody starts declining after six months.

The Bangladesh government has a plan to immunise 80 per cent of its citizens between one and a half years and two. If vaccine provides immunity for six, seven or even a year, those who received jabs immediately after the first batch arrived will then need a booster dose. This issue needs enough clarification and therefore what is incumbent on every citizen is to maintain health protocol religiously. Wearing masks certainly tops the list.

 

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