Life and death are two sides of the same coin. They are inevitable.. We are certain of that. But how and when life comes to an end is a question no one can truly answer.
India’s scary Covid-19 second wave has devastated big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Pune. Hospitals and crematoriums have run out of space, and funerals are taking place in car parks. The pandemic has now firmly gripped many smaller cities, towns and villages where the devastation is largely under-reported. The daily infection rate is more than 300,000; the daily death toll, in excess of 2,000, is very likely an undercount. The health system has broken down, with scarcities in everything from hospital beds to oxygen. When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective. In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants. Current Covid-19 appropriate behavior which reduces transmission – including frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, physical distancing, and good ventilation and avoiding crowded places or closed settings – continue to work against new variants by reducing the amount of viral transmission and therefore, reducing opportunities for the virus to mutate. Scaling up vaccine manufacturing and rolling out vaccines as quickly and widely as possible will also be critical ways of protecting people before they are exposed to the virus and the risk of new variants. Priority should be given to vaccinating high-risk groups everywhere to maximize global protection against new variants and minimize the risk of transmission. Moreover, ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is more critical than ever to address the evolving pandemic. As more people get vaccinated, we expect virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations. It’s really hard to say. It depends on a few things: how much vaccine coverage we can get and how quickly; how long the protection lasts; and what proportion of the population gets infected; what kind of mutant viruses develop? A word of caution, the virus is only a year old. Long-term studies have not really been done yet. We do not have the answers, but the next few years are going to be critical.