Prevention & Control of Omicron: Better Coverage & Justified Price of Vaccine NEEDED
As the Air Quality Index in the NCT is witnessing its worst string from 21st December onwards(459 on 26th December) on account of mixing height of the wind being very slow, the minimum temperature has dipped further, bringing a bone chilling sensation to the people of all walks of life. Dense fog, ground frost, cold wave conditions and isolated/ scattered rainfall is also happening in Punjab, Haryana , Delhi and parts of U.P. under the influence of two Western disturbances.
To make it further tough elsewhere, worst ever floods affecting thirty thousand people in Malaysia have happened and Omicron fears also widened its reach in U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Netherland, Portugal, China (Changsha, Hunan, Guangdong and Tianjin),Canada and USA.
(2) Coming to domestic situation, things are not as bad as being reflected in some quarters. Erstwhile major states of Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi ,Haryana, Karnataka, M.P., Kerala, U.P, and Rajasthan(Out of 18 affected so far) have begun with night curfew and imposing fresh curbs to check further rising spike, now exceeding a mark of 430. Mumbai and Delhi situation yet again is mind concerning if not boggling, as compared to the first week of December.In addition to executive orders, certain High Courts too have begun issuing directions to impose curbs on gatherings right upto Sankranti celebrations on 14th January.
(3) Almost side by side, Tedros A. Ghebreyesus, the D.G.of WHO has cautioned that Vaccine Inequity had to come to an end, failing which it was to lead to prolonging, now appearing, perpetual, Pandemic. He went on to add that the existing vaccines continue to provide significant protection against severe disease from Omicorn.
He has further stated that the majority of hospitalizations and casualties were among the un-vaccinated, not the un-boosted persons.
Interim Morale Booster
(4) Such an obvious and unfortunate comment is bound to boost the morale of the poor and politically fragile and shaken African nations, many of whom are still being deprived of even the first dose ,despite several positive assurances from the UNO and GROUPs of nations, such as,G-8, and G-20.
Unjustified Greed of Mega Drug Companies
(5) But it may not augur well with the giant Vaccine manufacturers ,such as, Pfizer, Astra Zenca (more robust) and Moderna, supported otherwise in all respects by their “mother” countries.
As per some revelations in the media, due to shrewd manipulations of Conmen, middlemen, hackers and lobbyists, not only advance arrangement of funds were done on easy terms but the manufacturers are reported to have resorted to determine terms & conditions, influence patent clauses as also getting the title of co-inventor which may ensure additional benefits.
Once on a loss making spree, these drug manufacturers as compared to actual Indian “leaders” , swung back to profiteering , thanks to the Corona virus, earlier mutations and recent shift from Delta to Omicron.
Latter, is reported to be much stronger and spreading at an unprecedented speed in 108 countries. It is, in addition, more transmissible but chances of hospitalisation too have come down substantially.
(6) Also a key point to be noted is the rising rate of vaccination in the developed nations and introduction of Booster doses in some of them. These are expected to make a difference.
However, what should actually bother the humanity is tremendous or unthinkable profit making tilt of the companies, being generated out of an outright tragic situation.
(7) Coming to brasstacks, against the per dose cost of one American Dollar ,average actual price of vaccine at present stands at $ 20 to 25 or £ 20.Such a lust being never ending , is bound to be endemic.
Can poor & devastated nations afford it ?
Is it not only inhuman and unethical, it is simply beyond any imagination.
Economic Opportunity should not mean that procurement may be easily facilitated to a rich minority while the majority who may find it difficult to afford, should BE DESTINED TO, OR MADE TO SUFFER.
(8) It can easily be termed as a pathetic situation, nothing else. Also dedicated efforts, effective control and regular monitoring thereof, has to be ensured to take care of the possibility of any other outbreak.
Advisory For India
(9) We in India, may be about to enter a community transmission phase in view of rapid ,unfortunate strides, already made by the West Europe ,South Africa and the USA.
Neither there is a need to panic nor the fear or apprehension should be underplayed.
A Re-assessment of critical gaps in the already fine tuned and upgraded hospital infrastructure and addition of ventilators and close by oxygen availability, should be very much on our cards.
(10) While doing so, the vital decision to introduce the boosters for the elderly and more needy as also introduction of vaccine for the children & teenagers, on the basis of U.K.’s nod to Pfizer vaccine, also will have to be taken up on priority.
It may be close on the heels of an Israeli initiative to offer the fourth dose to the elderly above 60 ,those with compromised immune systems and the health workers.
(11) Further, a South African study has hinted at a reduced rate (80%) of hospitalization among Omicron infected patients and that for the hospitalized ones, the risk of severe disease was roughly 30 % lower. These may be due to high population immunity NOW.
While we need to draw lessons from it as also from a positive news regarding possibility of a Pfizer Pill(as a first time home treatment mechanism),one should not forget that the worst of the pandemic had NOT Come To An End.
Special Address of PM on 24th December
(12) The PM has called for dedication, a mission mode approach, vigilance and being proactive.While patting once again the three categories of Frontline personnel, he has announced Precautionary doses ( basically 3rd dose)for them from 10th of January and first time doses for the age group 15 to 18 ýears of children( essentially Teenagers) from 3rd of January, 2022.
But no plan has been divulged as yet for the age groups 2 to 5, 6 to 10 and 11 to 15..This may have to be looked into on Priority even if there are some reservations on this count.
Also one has to be clear that the claimed achievements cover ONLY the Adult population, NOT the whole of population, even when the possibility of hospitalization is expected to be on lower side and that there are hopes still from the launching of a Nasal and D.N.A. based vaccine soon.
Shall we, Therefore, Express More Optimism In The Name of Youth of the Country For An Overall Improvement in Situation During 2022-23 ?
(The author is former Chief Secretary, Sikkim)