The coming months are decisive and India’s preparation appears underwhelming.
- Reuters survey suggest that third wave might hit India again around October.
- Children under 18 years of age predicted to be at highest risk.
- Vaccination drive is the antidote to the reoccurrence of catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak like in last few months.
- So far, mere 5% India population is vaccinated.
India just recovered from a horrific wave of COVID-19 that resulted in the collapse of healthcare system. While the nation is still dealing with the grief and loss, experts have already predicted that the impending third COVID-19 wave might be just a few months away.
In a medical survey conducted by Reuters, specialists suggested that India should brace up for the third COVID-19 wave by October this year.
In a survey of 40 healthcare professionals, scientists, virologists, epidemiologists, and professors between June 3-17, 85% of the respondents agreed that the nation will have to tackle the virus again by October. Three respondants believe that the impending wave will engulf the nation earlier in August, while 12 predicted September to be the challenging month.
The remaining three forecasted the third wave of COVID-19 between November 2021 to February 2022.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 70% of the respondants in the survey conducted by Reuters beleive that the third wave would be comparatively less severe due to vaccination drives.
“It will be more controlled, as cases will be much less because more vaccinations would have been rolled out and there would be some degree of natural immunity from the second-wave,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
The major factors behind the turbulent second wave in India were the inadequate vaccination and unavailability of enough healthcare resources like oxygen, hospital beds, and medicines.
So how prepared is India for the third wave?
According to the experts, the major prerequisites to keep the third COVID-19 wave under control is vaccination and stronger healthcare system than before. So how far has India come after the last few catastrophic months? And did the authorities of the ailing nation learnt a lesson to be prepared for what is to come next? Let’s find out.
The government of India is undertaking vaccination efforts aggresively, however, vaccinating a nation of more than 1.3 billion people is not a walk in the park.
So far, India has vaccinated just 5% of its eligible population which amounts to around 950 million people.
The Indian government earlier rolled out the vaccine policy stating that it will buy half of the vaccine productions to continue giving free shots to healthcare professionals and frontline workers who are around 300 million in numbers. These vaccines being purchased by the government were also to be used to vaccinate citizens older than 45 years of age for free of cost.
The remaining vaccines were decided to be split half between the state governments and private hospitals to vaccinate more than 600 million below the age of 45.
However, the loopholes in the policies and lack of unity of the state governments proved to be detrimental to the health of this vaccination policy.
Faults in Federal Policies pave for a bleak road ahead
The state governments, while buying the vaccine production from manufacturers, competed among themselves to negotiate on prices and accumulate a bigger lot. This resulted after the government lifted the eligible age criteria and allowed people younger than 45 to take the doses. This led to the inefficiency of such scales that the government had to revise the policy.
According to the new mandates introduced by the Central government in the vaccine policy, 75% of the vaccine production will be directly purchased by the Modi government while the remaining 25% will be available for the private hospitals.
So far, more people below the age of 45 have received their vaccine doses than people above 60 years of age. The number of citizens older than 60 years and unvaccinated amounts to around 75 million in numbers.
The discrepancies in vaccination drive so far have very little to add to the confidence that India’s vaccination drive is efficient enough to fight the impending third wave.
Below 18 on a red alert
According to the survey by Reuters, 26 out of 40 healthcare specialists believe that people under the age of 18 would be at the maximum risk during the third wave of COVID-19.
“The reason being they are a completely virgin population in terms of vaccination because currently there is no vaccine available for them,” said Dr Pradeep Banandur, head of epidemiology department at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).
“If children get infected in large numbers and we are not prepared, there is nothing you can do at the last minute,” said Dr Devi Shetty, a cardiologist at Narayana Health and an advisor to the Karnataka state government on pandemic response planning.
She further adds, “It will be a whole different problem as the country has very, very few pediatric intensive care unit beds, and that is going to be a disaster.”