Issues and Challenges

Get Vaccinated, Stay Safe, Stay Healthy

Pakistan has encountered rising daily death rate due to COVID-19 in the third wave (compared to the earlier waves), which is a very alarming situation. According to recent updates, there have been 17,117 deaths, reported by WHO as of April 25, 2021. While addressing the situation, the Prime Minister has informed that the third wave is by far the deadliest and needs special attention by the nation. The good news is that the vaccination process has already started. However, it can be clearly seen that people are not following SOPs strictly and you can still see crowds of people gathered at shopping malls or grocery stores without wearing masks or keeping safe distance. In addition to this, a number of different speculations and myths have been circulating ever since the process of vaccination started and people are actually reluctant to get vaccinated because of these made-up “theories”.
The third wave of coronavirus comes with deadlier and more dangerous variants of the virus. It has caused more damage all over the world than any of the previous waves and has been the cause of death of thousands of people worldwide. Our neighbour India is going through the worst spread of the virus with the number of new cases having mounted up to over three hundred thousand daily and thousands of deaths recorded every day. Their health system has collapsed in the face of such spread. People are suffering because of the shortage of oxygen and the images and visuals emerging from India are heartbreaking, to say the very least. However, the fact is that we live in a region that is probably one of the worst hit by the third wave. We are as yet spared and not faring as bad as other countries but this does not mean that things do not have the potential of getting out of hand. What we need to realize is that we need to stop the third wave in its tracks so as not to land in a situation like that of India. 
The important question is what is the cause of the emergence of new variants. A virus undergoes mutation that gives rise to variants of the original strain. When a virus spreads in a population from one person to the other, it gets the opportunity to replicate itself and undergo mutation in its structure and function. Thus, the virus makes changes to develop more and more protection against the host immune system with every replication. 
How can we prevent new variants in future?
The only way to stop the virus from replicating and coming up with new variants is to stop its spread, which can only happen if we make a difference at the individual level by take some responsibility. We should remember that “normality” led to “lethality”. It means that this situation does not require for us to act all normal and casual as if the virus is not there. We have to accept the fact that we cannot go out or hangout with people the way we used to in times when the virus was not there. We just cannot take a risk. 
Today, it is quite evident that countries, which have been most successful in controlling the transmission and spread of COVID-19 and even almost completely removing it from their country did it by reducing the spread of the virus by enforcing aggressive and strict rules and actions such as testing, isolation and restricting mobility as much as possible.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of every citizen to play their role in protecting their community and country by reducing the transmission of the virus. Try to stay indoors for starters. You can get food or groceries delivered at your doorstep. If it is important to go outside, make sure that you are wearing a mask at all times. Frequently wash your hands and if it is possible, keep a pocket size sanitizer with you at all times. Maintain distance with people and avoid crowded areas, for example, shopping malls. Try to stay in an open and ventilated room. Most important thing of all: get vaccinated.
Lingering Myths about Corona Vaccine
Alot of people are hesitant in getting vaccinated. A lot of conspiracy theories have been going around, most of which are usually shared through social media. According to the latest data, Pakistan had administered only 350,000 single doses of corona vaccine until mid-march, which is way lower than any other country in the region, for example Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It shows the amount of skepticism and hesitation that people are expressing towards the vaccine. This hesitation can be harmful for us, as it was with public doubts about the polio vaccine.
A lot of myths have been going around, which are quite unrealistic. Recently, I asked our house helper to get vaccinated to which she replied, “Baaji, we are not getting vaccinated because I have heard that the vaccine makes you infertile for life. I don’t even know if the pandemic is real.” She believes in all the made-up theories about the vaccine and the sad reality is, it is not just one person who thinks like that; there are a lot of people, illiterate as well as literate, who think that the vaccination makes people impotent or changes their sexuality. In addition to these, there are some other funny ones too. For example, some people actually believe that the vaccine consists of a chip that traces people. People also hesitate because they think that the development of the vaccine was too quick to have followed all protocols and hence might have negative side effects. There is zero percent reality in this. Every person who receives a shot of the vaccine is monitored for at least half an hour to deal with any allergic reaction that may occur. 
The reality is that we face a challenge that even the richest nations with the best healthcare systems are finding hard to tackle. Our salvation lies in us taking responsibility for ourselves and those around us. First and foremost, everyone should get vaccinated as and when it becomes available for their age bracket, and while we wait for that we should strictly adhere to all the SOPs that the government has devised for our wellbeing. We really need to make wise decisions and try to educate people regarding this. Otherwise, we will hear to bear a lot of consequences.
Get vaccinated, stay safe. HH

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