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Mass vaccination the only panacea

Vaccine coronavirus concept. Syringe with an ampoule hold in hand doctor. Medicine in bottle. Vector illustration isometric 3d design. Injection from viruses COVID-19. Laboratory sample in glass tube.  

COVID-19 is surging ahead globally and does not seem to abate. Newer strains are evolving on account of its single-filament RNA strand, which is capable of fast mutation and quick replication.

As is seen in variants in the U.K. (B.1.1.7), Brazil and South Africa (501Y.V2), the transmission is possible because the newer variants are more adaptable to the host environment and can, through the escape mode, overcome destruction by the antibody response.

The available handy tool to arrest the vicious cycle of its transmission is mass vaccination, which acquires utmost relevance considering the gravity of the situation. Any hesitation among sections of the public to get vaccinated has to be countered with facts on the benefits of the vaccine.

The stray reactions, if at all, should be weighed against morbid complications. One should know how the ferocious virus is morphing into different strains, causing severe morbidity and at times, mortality.

Silent transmission

Those harbouring the virus but are symptomless is as much capable of transmission as those symptomatic. They move about freely in society and pass the virus to others — similar to how the legendary Typhoid Mary indiscriminately distributed the typhoid bacillus to her customers whom she served as a cook, by faecal contamination. This type of “potential carriers” is a threat to society.

In the case of the novel coronavirus with its aerosol transmission, achieving herd immunity will take time. Hence the need for a speedy solution to curb the menace.

Around a basketball match in Philadelphia in June 20, 2020, a single player from Team A, an asymptomatic carrier, transmitted the virus to players of his team and a few in Team B, surprisingly owing to close contact not within but outside the field.

This suffices to stress the urgency of vaccination as the newer morphed variants are capable of faster mutation and quick replication that make it difficult to combat the viral onslaught.

It is curious to note the similar modus operandi of a plant virus.

The plant virus Gemini enacts a similar tactic of the novel coronavirus in destroying plants such as tomato and tobacco by an “attack and counter-attack” mechanism as in a battlefield.

The viral protein enables its entry into the plant and the latter, in turn, gives a fitting response with its own protein ubiquitin. The virus cleverly escapes the plant device by adding another protein SUMO, tricking the latter into believing that this simulation pathway belongs to the host and thus succeeds in destroying the plant. In the same way, the novel coronavirus gets the upper hand by triggering host inflammation before the latter’s defence, leading to a cytokine storm in the host, a point of no return.

Vaccination is the need of the hour as the virus attacks young and old alike, causing post-viral sequalae of inflammatory changes in vital organs such as the lungs, heart, brain, liver and kidneys, not to spare the nerves. We are still not able to catch the bull by its horns.

Mutant strains of the virus are fast spreading in India, as the recent ICMR survey warns. Mass vaccination is the only panacea to bring it to a halt sooner than later.

The vaccine acts like the viral spike protein, thereby inducing antibody reaction in the host. When the recipient is immunised with antibodies to face the virus, she will not contract the infection and there won’t be any further transmission.

We must remember we are fighting a much stronger enemy and it is important to conquer it before falling into its trap. So, a right-thinking person will shed the fear of the vaccine and opts for it voluntarily, to safeguard herself and others.

The need of the hour is vaccination on a war footing, which holds the key to bring the epidemic to a halt.

(The author is a senior industrial medical consultant)

 dr.anubala@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 4:32:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/mass-vaccination-the-only-panacea/article34004538.ece

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