Another festival of overcrowding is behind us. If the novel coronavirus doesn’t make a resurgence in a week or two, we can be reasonably sure that we have ample herd immunity. Scientists call it the endemic stage. We call it living with the virus.

Our new normal is woven with delicate threads of uncertainty, hope and resilience. While our scientists, doctors and everyone on the frontline of this battle give us the courage to look forward, uncertainty refuses to go away. For some time to come, we wouldn’t be able to do things we did so casually (hugging is back, but it’s an awkward hug nowadays). And we don’t know if the down-yet-not-out virus is upgrading its genetic arsenal for another strike at humanity.

So, while we celebrate our slow return to pre-Covid life, we should not allow ourselves to be seduced into a false sense of safety that may tempt us to drop our guard (keep the mask on, please). The bedrock of this caution should be two basic learnings from the past 20 months.

One: The pandemic has to run its course, in waves till we readied our resistance, and now in ebb and flow. The patterns we have recorded so far from across the globe tells us that whenever we tried and pushed the crest of the earlier waves, the elastic pandemic line on our graphs just got longer (Kerala is a classic example). That’s not bad, as it saves more lives and gives us more time to scramble for resources.

Two: Vaccines work. Once having survived the virus and sections of the community having acquired immunity from the infection, our best chance to reach a manageable endemic stage is vaccination. While some respectable doctors have remained skeptical of vaccine efficacy, data – let’s believe it isn’t doctored – show a marked dip in severity and fatality after the jabs. Tamil Nadu directorate of public health statistics last month showed 73% of those who were in hospital with Covid-19 were unvaccinated. Almost 45% of those who had one dose and still got infected recovered at home without complications. Union health ministry data shows a single shot is 96.6% effective in preventing Covid-19 death, two doses increases the efficiency to 97.5%. Vaccination has also been found to prevent hospitalisation and death due to the delta variant that has been causing a large share of breakthrough infections. ICMR researchers said in July that inoculation had brought down Covid-19 fatality to 0.04%.

Despite these promising results, hesitancy remains a bane, especially among our elderly people. As on Diwali day, 75% of senior citizens in Tamil Nadu are yet to be double-vaccinated; 52% of them haven’t got the first dose. And people above 60 constitute more than one crore of our target audience. The middle-aged (1.45 crore in the age group of 45-59) are better off, with 79% of them getting one dose and 41% both. Of the state’s 3.28 crore youngsters, 66% have got the first jab, only 24% the second. That could be because vaccination for the young started late, and, as global travel resumes most of them would take the jab.

As for the elderly who refuse to get vaccinated, the reasons could be two: Fear of adverse effects and retirement to fate. While counselling can remove fear, our seniors should be told to take the jab so their grandchildren have a better fate.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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