No nigh end
Ever since its outbreak last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back humans the world over into an era of darkness — killing 4.6 million people, infecting many more, leading to the closure of most of the essential and non-essential services, and taking a heavy toll on mental space of almost everyone. The ultimate question in this regard has been when it will come to end. Now, experts have answered this question in a not-so-positive fashion, stating that it may not be anytime within the next six months. They say that the pandemic may end after almost everyone will be either infected or vaccinated. Certainly, vaccination is the key solution at this point in time but that too is not foolproof as the virus keeps mutating and evolving in new forms. What looks over the horizon is a long path ahead. It suits here to mentally not seek an abrupt end of the pandemic. The expectation is only going to create trouble in the long run. The 'end' of the pandemic is a slightly catchy thing. A pandemic doesn't get so easily eliminated from society; it downgrades to an epidemic or an endemic. Localization of the virus to certain limited areas is termed an epidemic by the WHO. The global body recognizes endemic as a situation where the disease in question will persist across the globe but only at normal levels. So, the virus may not be completely erased from our lives but rather settle down and be a part of our lives for a long time to come — still claiming lives on a substantial basis. All through the process, it is very likely to stay with us — evolving and countering our efforts to counter it. Only certain diseases in animal history — smallpox and rinderpest — have been completely eliminated. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, what makes the matter worse is their ability to mutate. Every time its scale is reduced, the virus comes out in a new form, making the vaccines less effective. This creates a further burden to conduct parallel research works to figure out how to keep the vaccination process consistent with the emergence of newer strains. Apart from the different strains of the Coronavirus, there is an ever-increasing possibility of new types of viruses coming into the picture, particularly as we advance on the development path with complete disregard of ecology and environment. New studies have found linkages between disappearing forests and the spread of zoonotic diseases, as carrier animals spill over to human spaces. As of now, nearly 42.5 per cent of the world population has received at least a single dose and 30.3 per cent have received both doses. Experts suggest that for the Coronavirus to make a retreat, there has to be 90-95 per cent vaccination of the global population. The greatest hindrance to this process is vaccine inequity. The vaccination started towards the beginning of this year and took developed and developing countries around half of a year to partially vaccinate their population. The case may not be the same for other countries. India, despite being a well-positioned nation in terms of pharmacy and medical services, has managed to fully vaccinate just above a quarter of its population. The corresponding figure for Africa abysmally stands below five per cent! This single set of stats reveals the complexity of the problem. The 55 per cent vaccination in the US and 65 per cent vaccination in the UK would surely lend a good outlook to the respective countries and make their populations comparatively safer but the end of the pandemic, it must be said, will remain a farce as long as vulnerable pockets are left behind. It is no mystery that the virus communicates from one person to another, from one region to another and from one nation to another. By not appropriately working towards vaccine equity or universal vaccination, better-off countries are axing the same branch they are sitting on. With the current pace of vaccination in most of the developing nations, alongside the constantly mutating virus, the end of the pandemic remains a faraway dream. Geographically also, only a limited part of the world is heading towards immunity. In a nutshell, there seems no clear end to the pandemic. This reality has to be understood by the governments and the people as well. Only the acceptance of this reality could inspire appropriate and safe public behaviour, and guide the much-needed policies towards domestic vaccination and equitable global distribution. If we are to find the light at the end of the tunnel, we must proceed collaboratively.