Doctors warn of fresh COVID-19 outbreak if people opt not to get vaccinated

Coordinated pan-India campaign can reduce impact of pandemic, they say

The growing COVID-19 vaccination coverage in India is not enough, warn doctors, who say the cost of people opting not to get vaccinated has the potential to cause a new outbreak.

“If people decide not to get vaccinated due to hesitancy and doubts, or even if the vaccination is delayed due to logistical reasons, the potential for new outbreaks of COVID-19 remains very high. New variants of SARS-CoV-2 are sprouting, which might be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines,” said Mubasheer Ali, senior, internal medicine, Apollo Telehealth.

Stating that vaccination in India was still a matter of choice, he noted that a coordinated pan-India campaign could reduce the impact of the pandemic.

“It’s a technically feasible thing, but because of the scale of population to be vaccinated, geography and terrain and the enormous time being consumed for the process, it can be hampered,” he noted.

Dr. Ali added that promoting the uptake of vaccines will require understanding whether people are willing to be vaccinated and the reasons why they were willing or unwilling to do so.

“So, the need of the hour is to speed up the vaccination process and drives, spread awareness about disease and its effects and making sure there is no vaccine hesitancy by rightly educating the people. The world shares a collective responsibility in fighting this pandemic; therefore, continued research on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and hesitancy should be a priority,” he observed.

Citing the example of Germany, doctors said the country was currently witnessing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Sundari Shrikant, director, internal medicine, QRG Super Speciality Hospital, Faridabad, said there was currently a broad agreement within the global scientific community that the most effective way to defeat the pandemic was through mass vaccination of populations around the world.

“Opting not to get vaccinated puts the person, his family and the community at large at risk of infection and the spread of the disease. Vaccination not only prevents infection but, if infected, the person develops mild infection. It also prevents community spread. Besides, it is important to emphasise the continued practice of COVID-19-appropriate behaviour for personal safety and prevention of community transmission,” said Dr. Shrikant.

Doctors add that people who are unvaccinated have higher chances of getting moderate to severe COVID-19 and undergo hospitalisation.

“Natural immunity on an average stays for three months, post vaccination, it stays much longer in the body and as such can be protective for a longer period, slowing down the transmission of the virus,” said Ankita Baidya, consultant, infectious diseases, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals.

Meanwhile, a Health Ministry release issued on Saturday said that more than 116.54 crore (1,16,54,44,605) vaccine doses had been provided to States/Union Territories so far through the Central Government’s (free of cost channel) and through direct State procurement category.

More than 15.69 crore (15,69,46,111) balance and unutilised vaccine doses were still available with the States/UTs to be administered, it added.

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