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Pandemic plight

File Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

COVID-19 and its impact may have bogged us down, leaving many of us breathless (literally), and shattered after losing our loved ones in a manner we had never thought of in our wildest dreams. In these gloomy times, we must, however, remember that this is not the first pandemic the humankind has been struck with. We must remember that developing any major vaccine against a hitherto unknown disease is a matter of patience. The process has its risks and failures. It is based on trial and error. It may be a matter of a year or two now but a small peek into the professional lives of the pioneers of vaccination speaks of their determination and perseverance to save millions of lives during the times when medical science was not as advanced as it is today. Vaccination, as a procedure, is known to be used in India and China since 1000 CE for developing immunity from smallpox, a disease that caused rashes and pustules, followed by fever and respiratory infection, which most of the time, proved fatal. Early vaccination (then known as variolation) required injecting a healthy person with scabs or pustules obtained from a patient. These foreign bodies excited the person’s immune system to produce antibodies and thus gave the person a fighting chance. Immunisation, however, was not guaranteed due to the pathogen’s high virulence. But as of today, medical science is the most advanced we have ever had. Across world, several top-notch research institutes are simultaneously developing a potent vaccine to beat coronavirus. In a statement that has generated a great amount of optimism, Dr Randeep Guleria, head of Delhi’s AIIMS and co-author of the book on COVID-19, ‘Till We Win’, has said that a vaccine against the virus will be giving protection for at least a year. He said the vaccine will provide protection to a greater size of the population and help break the chain of transmission. Coronavirus, however, will become endemic, he said. According to him COVID-19 will not disappear but will become a milder disease. Dr Guleria said by 2023 the infections would become lesser and even before that the WHO would declare the end of the pandemic. Meanwhile, according to reports, a minimum of 100 million doses of Covishield, a coronavirus vaccine that was said to be 90 per cent effective under certain conditions will be available by January. It will be another two-three month for the vaccine to be available in India. By January, according to Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute of India, we will have 100 million doses, minimum. The target set by the government is 300 to 400 million doses by July. Knowing all this invokes a lot of hope that we will beat the pandemic.