‘Second Wave and Covid19 vaccines: Possibilities, preparedness and implications for community- based preventive work’

The best and perhaps the ONLY way to mitigate the effects of the second wave is through community- based preventive work.

Vaccination

Karnataka government sent an advisory on the expected second wave of Covid19 pandemic in the state. In response to it, Karnataka Jana Arogya Chaluvali (KJS) (Campaign against Privatisation of HealthCare) organised a webinar to discuss several aspects related to COVID second wave COVID vaccines and preparedness of the health system to deal with the second wave.

Speaking at the webinar, Dr. Himanshu Mohan Kumar, Global Health Consultant, and Researcher said that the second wave is expected to be much more severe than the first. In the past few weeks there has been one death every twenty minutes in Delhi, he said.

Dr. Himanshu said that the Karnataka government’s response to the second wave is expected to be much better than the first given a better level of preparedness – mobilizing beds including HDU and ICU beds can be done quickly, the government has adequate quantities of Oxygen, PPE kits, testing kits and has ramped up testing facilities. Allaying fears of yet another lockdown he said that the second wave will not warrant a national-level lockdown but restrictions on movement, public gatherings will have to continue. “No amount of preparation at the facility -level will be enough if we do not make enough efforts to reduce the number of severe Covid19 cases”, he said. This would ensure that there will be fewer persons requiring hospitalization, will prevent saturation of ICU beds and thereby reduce the burden on the health system, he said.

Congratulating the activists working with communities in Bangalore, Dr. Himanshu said that the best and perhaps the ONLY way to mitigate the effects of the second wave is through community- based preventive work. “Need of the hour is to continue such work to reduce fear, dispel fake news, prevent stigma, ensure adherence to preventive behavior. This will directly contribute to arresting the speed of transmission which in turn will prevent the accumulation of cases leading to a reduced number of persons requiring hospitalization”.

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He emphasized that communities need to vigilant and better organized to face the second wave. The testing strategy should be expanded to ALL in addition to special attention to priority groups. He urged activists to closely work with the government frontline workers and keep up the pressure on the local government health facilities to continue testing. ‘This is the only way we will pick up the early signs of the second wave. Then we can quickly move in to contain the pandemic to a single house or a street’, he said. He added that there was no need to shift Covid19 positive persons who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms to CCCs. At this stage home isolation is the best strategy, he said.

If community-based preventive interventions are undertaken in a timely and rigorous manner then there will be no need to impose any lockdown. Given that Covid19 is not the last of the pandemics that we will see in the coming years, long-term, sustained work with communities is crucial to building community resilience and the capacity to absorb shocks due to disasters.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Speaking about vaccines, Dr. Himanshu warned that paying too much attention to vaccines about which we have very little information could jeopardize preventive work. He urged activists to adopt a wait and watch policy for newer developments to emerge. During the discussion, participants expressed concerns over continued poor attention given to nonCovid19 cases and to subsistence issues such as food security. Given that there had been drastic funding cuts from the central government for the TB program, ICDS, and for child immunization, they had been seeing an increase in the number of TB cases and cases of child malnutrition. Continued lack of medicines in the government system was posing a serious threat to persons with co-morbidities who had defaulted on treatment.

The Webinar concluded with activists deciding to escalate Noncovid19 health issues and food security issues to higher levels within the government and demand immediate actions on the same.

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