Dealing with the Delta: Ten ‘Alpha’ points to remember

Notwithstanding the looming threat of a third wave, the real risk is not as much about the covid-19 virus, as it is about our own reckless behaviour. Everywhere, we see people vacationing, partying, and overcrowding in public places as if there is no tomorrow. Sadly, there may indeed be no tomorrow if we take this mayhem too far. We should not allow the virus to profit from our fatigue and lack of volunteerism as the biology of the virus feeds on our behaviour. If we are to counter the challenge that Covid has thrown at us, of staying Covid negative and mentally positive, we need to bear in mind the following points:

  1. We began our fight against Covid on a flawed premise that the Covid scene in US and UK was different from that in India, and that India had a better immune system. Further, we also assumed that different Indian states are plagued with different circumstances, and so the consequent responses are different. This notion as we have realised in hindsight is nothing but a myth.
  2. The pandemic is far from over. We know that every wave is defined by a signature strain, so just getting a vaccine does not mean we have conquered Covid. The first vaccine was prepared to counter the D614G variant from Wuhan. Since then, the virus has undergone about 25000 mutations leading to around 8572-odd variants. So, there is no reason to drop our guard, in fact this is the time to increase our vigil.
  3. It is not right to say that the current vaccine is ineffective against the delta variant, as most studies have concluded otherwise. Not taking a vaccine jab could make us vulnerable to a new strain, hence it is necessary to steer clear of futile arguments dismissing the vaccine’s efficacy.
  4. With new mutations emerging, the need for a booster dose is being underlined across many conversations. Majority of the current studies have advised against a booster does at this juncture, notwithstanding some studies reporting a waning immunity. We are yet far from a conclusive evidence through clinical trials in favour of a booster dose or a new vaccine for that matter.
  5. Covaxin and Covishield both have good efficacies so we should not fret over the choice of the vaccine. The vaccine is important, not the make.
  6. It is extremely important not to mix the two vaccines. There is no data from crossover trials recommending a cocktail. Conversely, we have initial data suggesting that by mixing the vaccines, we reduce their immunogenicity while increasing the reactogenicity which hints at a lower overall response of the immune system and a likelihood of reactions, although mild.
  7. In the current pandemic situation, it would be wrong to assume that we will achieve herd immunity once we reach the threshold of 65 percent population. Every wave comes with a new signature variant, and we can’t rule out the possibility of reinfections and maybe subsequent waves.
  8. Amid the looming threat of a third wave, we must treat the face mask as our daily vaccine dose. Vaccines are meant for protection, not prevention, so a jab may not avert the spread of the virus, it will prevent fatalities and complications post infections.
  9. Wearing a face mask, taking the vaccine jabs and maintaining adequate ventilation are the three mantras to prevent the third wave. The last mantra is the least emphasised but the most effective to keep the virus at bay. These three mantras are our best bets against the more aggressive forms of newer variants and their acquired ability of aerosol transmission. Moreover, hand hygiene and social distancing will complement these game changers.
  10. We know by now that Covid is a socio-economic virus; it does not have hands or feet of its own. We are the ones who help it move, get stronger, and create new mutants. Hence, we need to curb our social and entertainment activities and reimagine our celebrations as micro- entertainment events with minimal social interaction and maximum social distancing. We must do this for the sake of our economic wellbeing, such that shops, offices, factories run as like clinical establishments, schools and colleges reopen only to further the mainstream academic programs and not to host recreational events, and more importantly, our large populations of daily wage earners and salaried classes are able make both ends meet in these trying times.

We can make all of this happen if we give it our best shot, which is as critical as the vaccine jab! Let us turn the tables on this virus, let us leave it gasping for breath, once and for all.