VACCINATE OR COMMIT `COVI-CIDE!’

SOLITARY IMPRISONMENT: Most people do not understand that like in the case of other infectious diseases like rabbis and smallpox, covid-19 patients, are totally isolated and cannot come into contact with either family or friends till they are cured. Even medical staff who attend them are attired from head to toe in Personal Protection Equipment suits with their faces covered with a shield apart from the ubiquitous mask.

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goa is heading towards “Covi-Cide.” For a Saturday following the week when it is vital for all eligible Goans to take the Covid-19 vaccine. For a Saturday following the week when the doctors who have been dealing with Covid-19 cases for a year now, are themselves tired and may contemplate going on strike. For a Saturday following the week when Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant should be arrested for encouraging genocide by refusing to take any steps to stop the rising cases of Covid-19.
AND a few stray thoughts on Goa heading for what I see as “Coviside.” Which is mass suicide because Goans are refusing get themselves vaccinated with Covishield. By not getting themselves vaccinated they’re courting mass suicide because they do not even wear a mask or maintain physical distance. Because they continue to celebrate grand weddings without following any of the standard operating procedure stipulated for such events. Because politicians continue to campaign for the civic elections in the remaining five municipalities, without wearing masks or maintaining physical distance.
Because at a time when there is a huge spike in Covid-19, the Modi government is busy organizing Hunar Haat in every state of the country and these ethnic crafts and art markets are visited by several lakh of people for economic and social reasons. Many people think that Covid-19 is like a cold or a flu and they should not worry about getting themselves tested, even when they develop similar Covid-19 symptoms. The majority of deaths due to Covid-19 in Goa are increasing and tragically young people delay till the last moment when it comes to going to hospital. There are hundreds of cases of Covid-19 patients coming to hospital or dying within hours or days of being admitted. Because there are people stupid enough to believe that vaccines are money-making pharmaceutical racket and side-effects can be fatal. Even though there is evidence on record that severe side effects are less than 1% of the billions of vaccines administered not just in India but all over the world.
Even educated people do not recognize that the second wave of Covid-19 is much more deadly than the first wave. Perhaps not in a literal sense as the number of fatalities are fewer with the new strains of Covid-19 than the original strain of coronavirus. But the new strain spreads far more rapidly than the original strain. At the national level it took only two days for the daily number of cases to increase from seven to eight lakh. In Goa it has taken less than a week for cases to increase on an average of 200 to 385 on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
The additional factors which could have contributed to the virtual doubling of cases is the Easter celebrations and widely attended 41st anniversary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Look at the picture posted of the celebration even at the BJP headquarters office down Atmaram Borkar Road in Panaji and you see that very few are wearing masks or maintaining social distance.
AND a few stray thoughts on why every Goan who is eligible should take the Covishield which is available free at every urban and primary health system or at private hospitals for a nominal charge of Rs250. On Sunday, April 5, all government and private hospitals kept their vaccination units open so that those eligible for the vaccine. Despite all the messages encouraging vaccination less than 2,000 people came to get vaccinated. At a national level so far 8.3 crore doses have been administered in the last 80 days.
Then again on April 5, the country set a new record administering 43 lakh doses of vaccines on a single day. Except of course in Goa where even frontline health workers have been reluctant to take the vaccine. This includes nurses, ward boys, dentists and employees of pharmacies and security personnel posted at Covid-19 centres. Which is surprising since frontline workers unlike the average citizen know are familiar with the nature of Covid-19.
Just for refreshing the memory of Goa residents all senior citizens above the age of 60 years are eligible for vaccination. In the second phase the government announced that all residents over the age of 45 and even with health complications are entitled to vaccination without any worries. To clear another misconception any resident of Goa whether he is a Goan or migrant is eligible for the vaccine. All you have to do is to present your Aadhar card to show that you are above 45 years. Though many Goans think you have to register in advance before going for the vaccine, this is not essential. You can walk into any primary or urban health centre or the GMC or the district hospital and get vaccinated.
While there are many African countries and even European countries which are desperately short of sufficient vaccines, Goa is ajeeb (strange) as the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, declared. Less than 10% of the vaccines made available to Goa have been used to date!

VACCINE MYTHS

AND a few stray thoughts on myths around the vaccines. The reluctance to take the vaccine is not limited to Goa or India. In the United States there is stiff opposition to the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson as allegedly the cells of aborted foetuses are used in the production and testing of the vaccine. In some Islamic countries there are objections to some vaccines which are allegedly not halal as testing has been done on pigs.
Then of course there are people, particularly the middle class, who are very frightened of injections! Ironically, the poorer classes including migrant labour, prefer an injection to tablets because they want quick relief. Possibly because they are on daily wages and a day on which they don’t work means no salary for the day you did not go to work because you were sick.
Then there are people who don’t trust any vaccines or are worried about the side effects and the toll it could take on human life. Nobody is denying that not all the vaccines in the pharmaceutical market are suitable for protection from every new strain of the mutating coronavirus. It is public knowledge that several countries in Europe including France and Germany have rejected the Astrazeneca vaccine which is marketed in India as Covishield. But the extent of the side effects of the vaccine is far less than the side effects of the orally administered polio vaccine which eliminated polio from the country! No one refused to take the polio vaccine though there have been reports of side effects. So why this reluctance to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

NATURE OF INFECTION

AND a few stray thoughts on the nature of this infection called coronavirus or Covid-19. It is called Covid-19 because it first manifested in 2019. Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) is not sure whether it is a man-made virus in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. However, WHO believes that it is more likely to have emerged from the exotic animal markets of China.
Unlike most other countries the Chinese eat a variety of animals and birds and even snakes and scorpions! Whatever may be the origin of the original corona virus strain the fact remains that it spreads an infection which spreads rapidly mildly or acutely. It is not clear whether it spreads through contaminated surfaces or through the air. What is certain is that it spreads through droplets sneezed or coughed out from nose or mouth of infected persons.
Which is why the standard procedure worldwide is that everyone wear a mask to prevent infection from droplets when in the company of another person who ever so it may be. Regardless of whether it is a stranger, colleague or a member of one’s own family. It has also been stipulated globally that it is wise to maintain a physical one meter distance between people as it is logical that droplets from nose and mouth cannot travel a distance of one meter, unless someone is deliberately spitting on you.
It is also believed that the virus is a chipko virus and remains on any surface like the table or desk where you have been working, or on the door knob which has been touched by many for as long 48 hours. This is the origin of the compulsion to work from home for it is to run a factory or even a government office by maintaining a physical distance between every employee.
This is the reason why performances whether it be sports performance or films or the popular Goan tiatr have been banned. This is the reason why a ceiling has been placed of 200 people only for weddings. Though in the UK the limit is only 50 guests. Countries like the UK and the US which are the worst affected by Covid-19 have brought the contagion under control by mass vaccination.
Over 50% of the population of the UK has been vaccinated free by their government. Similarly 1/3rd of the population of the US has been vaccinated. In the context of the debate on which vaccine is bad, good or better, `The Washington Post’, a leading American daily, has quoted an expert saying that right now there is no choice and it is better to take any vaccine which is available rather than not taking the available vaccine fearing side-effects.
India is lucky because it has not one but two manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines, though Covishield vaccine is manufactured by the private company of the Serum Institute of India in Pune and this vaccine is considered more than 90% effective. At the same time it is the Covishield vaccine which has been rejected in Europe due to stray reports of blood clotting post-vaccination and leading to death amongst some vulnerable patients.

COVID-19 & LONELINESS

AND a few stray thoughts on why Covid-19 is the most lonely disease you can every contact. If you have the misfortune of being infected with Covid-19 you will have to be isolated. To give you an example, when you are bitten by an infected dog and get rabies, you are kept in an isolation ward for rabies is very infectious. Similar is the case with diseases like cholera and small pox which are becoming rarer. What is quite widely known is that the younger brother of small pox called chicken pox, is much less serious and does not leave marks or scars on the face and body.
The isolation is even stricter in the case of Covid-19 patients as anyone coming within a meter of the patient could catch the infection. Since there are suspicions that they coronavirus hangs around on surfaces for 48 hours, even the wife or the children of the patient are not allowed within a meter of the patient, or even in the ward or home in which the patient is admitted for quarantine.
If you get yourself tested in the early stages and have no other medical complications your stay in the hospital may be limited to a week or ten days. Unfortunately there are no injections which can make you well instantly. The initial treatment is the tablet Ramdesivir. Patients are also put on steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs. The other drugs prescribed are those which are used for respiratory diseases like asthma. Because the coronavirus infection is basically a respiratory disease. If you don’t get yourself tested and admitted on time you may slip into pneumonia which is very often a terminal stage requiring careful treatment. Pneumonia is a condition which causes serious damage to your lungs.
The final stages of Covid-19 sees a patient gasping for breath and has to be put on a ventilator in the ICU. If you have no problems getting admitted in a government hospital, the treatment is free. If you don’t trust government hospitals and insist on getting admitted to a private hospital the cost of treatment for Covid-19 could be hiked up to Rs10 lakh.
Every day in the ICU of a private hospital on a ventilator could cost Rs10,000 to Rs15,000. In private hospital the patient has to pay for the personal protection kit and other preventive measures taken by the medical staff attending to you. The average shift timing in Covid-19 cases is six hours for nurses and attendants cannot stay in a PPE, with not only a mask but a face shield, for more than six hours. The PPE and face shield and the mask used every new shift have to be disposed of and may not be re-used. Just the cost of the PPE, etc, could cost a patient around Rs500 per day!
But the worst part of Covid-19 treatment and quarantine is the patient’s isolation and consequent loneliness. Mama dearest cannot be with her child. A husband cannot come to the help of his wife. There may of course be a wife so loving that she is willing to share Covid-19 with her husband! There have been close friends, including a very senior homeopathic doctor, who has spoken eloquently about the isolation being the most scary part of being a Covid-19 positive patient.
Fortunately, Covid-19 is covered under the insurance policies of all private companies though we are not aware if the government insurance scheme DDSSY covers the full amount? It is quite likely that even DDSSY does not cover the testing cost which is an average of Rs1,200 in a private hospital, and vaccination costs of Rs250.

IT IS `COVI-CIDE’ IN GOA!

AND a last stray thought on Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant being liable for prosecution for “Covi-cide.” Every state in the country which has witnessed a second wave of Covid-19 has imposed strict restrictions. You cannot enter or leave Maharashtra by air, road or train without a Covid-19 negative certificate. Maharashtra where cases have gone up steeply in some districts besides Mumbai has imposed a night curfew from 8pm to 6am. Despite protests from the Muslim community that this will affect its Ramzan prayers. In Mumbai and other towns in Maharashtra the malls and multiplexes have been told to stay shut.
In Goa despite Porvorim MLA Rohan Khaunte shouting himself hoarse to impose curbs on tourists coming into Goa the Chief Minister is adamant that tourism cannot be halted. Casino and tourism income is more important to him than the health of Goans! His logic is that it is not the tourists who brought Covid-19 to Goa. It is the Goan people who are responsible because they are not following the norms of wearing a mask and refusing to get themselves vaccinated. In a criminal act Pramod Sawant has lifted Section 144, which prevents the gathering of four people, on the day Goa registered a high of 387 cases!

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