Post vaccination, mask and social distancing are still needed
Abrar Yousuf Mir
On 16 January 2021 world’s biggest vaccination programme against SARS-coV-2 started in all states of India in which healthcare and other frontline workers were immunized. Now phase third began and almost 60 million doses have been administered so far, mostly frontline workers and people above the age of 60.
The new covid -19 vaccines covishield and covaxin developed by Serum institute of India and Bharat Biotech, with 80 percent efficacy rate, seems to be remarkably good at preventing serious illness. But sharp rise of news cases from last one month, in different states of India including our union territory Jammu and Kashmir has been recorded, despite mass vaccination drive caseload is increasing day by day at alarming rate.
A new and highly infectious double mutant covid variant first in United Kingdom, Africa and now in India was found, which can complicate our battle against this dreadful virus and may render vaccines less effective against virus. Continuous mutations shown by virus from host to host are cause of concern for all of us.
People who were vaccinated and those who are going to be vaccinated in coming days are thinking to throw their masks away, ignore covid related protocols and live like they were living before covid -19 which actually can bring havoc in coming days.
At this time, we do not have evidence that these two vaccines limit the transmission of the virus, the research is unclear on exactly how well they stop the virus from taking root in an immunized persons nose and the spreading to others. Second we do not know exactly how long one remains immune to covid -19 after being vaccinated.
Moreover the old covid strains found within body of covid positive patients has developed a number of worrisome mutations in many countries including new Indian strain in 18 states of country, which were revealed few days before by department of Health government of India.
According to few famous immunologists of USA and India, new mutated strains can mutate easily and can escape from body’s surveillance mechanism and in theory could allow more virus to spread which will be challenging for us. The vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus, even though they do not display any symptoms. “We know now the vaccines can protect, but what we haven’t had enough time to really understand is – does it protect from spreading?” said Avery August, professor of immunology at Cornell University. That is because the SARS-CoV-2 virus may still colonize the respiratory tract, even as systemic immune cells protect the overall body from the disease it causes – Covid-19.
Hold on to your mask(s) for the foreseeable future. Right now, there are several unknowns, which make mask-wearing and social distancing important to protect the wider community. First, scientists do not know how Covid-19 vaccines may protect against asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (as explained above). There are promising signs – but research remains incomplete. Researchers also do not know how long Covid-19 vaccines may protect people from the virus. Scientists will also be closely watching how evolutionary changes in the virus or variants impact the effectiveness of vaccines.
According to famous immunologist Paul Duprex, director of the centre for vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh, ‘’the more hosts /humans this virus infects the more chances it has to replicate and potentially mutate ‘’. There will be an increase in transmission contacts due to the perception of vaccine-acquired immunity and the notion that vaccination will prevent transmission. Continued compliance with the non-pharmaceutical preventive measures is essential, especially when many are experiencing COVID -19 fatigues and most people have gotten used to the idea that other diseases can be stopped with a single pill or shot.
In Kashmir valley, another wave of virus seems to appear, from last few days new cases are rising exponentially. On an average among the hundreds of cases 12-15 cases are being reported with moderate to severe conditions. These fresh cases has set off alarm bells in Jammu and Kashmir .Three fold increase in number of new cases indicates that Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a second wave.
On the other side high tourist influx into the valley from last one month has become another challenge for local administration to prevent entry of new mutated strain which were few days before detected in eighteen states of country but our government has taken the steps at different fronts and is doing its best to keep the situation under control but we the citizens of Kashmir valley should take note of its severity and must follow the safety procedure and other guidelines providing by health experts from time to time.
To save lives of millions of our citizens and to keep education and other sectors running smoothly in our valley, and being responsible citizens we must adhere to covid -19 SOPs for our own welfare and also for the safety of billions of lives of whole nation.
Anything that we can do to control covid transmission is wearing masks, following other safety measures and trying to become habitual of these things for next few years until its virulence capacity will decrease towards human immune system.
Immunologists across the world believe that there is need to learn to live with the virus and the pandemic may end but covid -19 will re-emerge as a seasonal virus like other flu viruses. Therefore, I would like to suggest to each and every citizen of my valley whether you have got vaccinated or not, you must adhere to covid 19 SOPs like wearing mask particularly when going outside, maintain social distance, sanitize the hands, avoid close door gathering so that transmission of new mutant variant and its further variation can be prevented which is beneficial for all of us.
(The author is a student of immunology and natural medicines, School of Biological Sciences, University of Kashmir)