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Is Ahmedabad ready for Covid third wave?

| Updated: August 28, 2021 12:32

In the third of Vibes of India’s 3-part series, Ashvita Singh write about how prepared is Ahmedabad for Covid third wave:

There’s widespread speculation in the medical community regarding the arrival of Covid-19’s third wave. Many experts feel we may be able to ward off the worst, given that the cases that were anticipated to rise by the first or second week of August have yet to

Others maintain a more sceptical view, stating that the virus is smart and that any further wave of coronavirus depends on its variants and ability to penetrate the vaccine shield. While opinions on the arrival of the third differ, one thing has remained the same – the need to be completely prepared.

Health experts across the state agree that vaccination is the primary shield in the fight against coronavirus. Dr Chandresh Jardosh, former president of the Gujarat chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), explains it is highly unlikely that the third wave will arrive in the way being projected by many. “In case it does, it would be as mild as more. The primary reason for this is that more and more people are being
vaccinated,” he adds.

Data available in the public domain also supports this argument. Ontario in Canada, which has been reporting a spike in Covid cases since last week, reported a high of 722 cases on Sunday. Out of these, 78% of Sunday’s cases involved people who were unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or had unknown vaccination status, according to the country’s health officials.

Keeping the importance of vaccination in mind, Gujarat is not performing as well as anticipated. The state, so far, has vaccinated only 15% (1.12 crore) of its total population with both doses. The state, and the country, has three vaccines at present – Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik. While the Supreme Court’s nudge to the Union Government to take vaccine registration offline vastly helped the state gain momentum in administering vaccines, the hesitancy in taking the jabs is still there, partly fuelled by the lack of data on the efficacy of these vaccines – more prominently Covaxin.

Bharat Biotech, the company that made Covaxin, released the Phase-3 trial data only in July, over 5 months after it was awarded emergency use authorisation by India’s drug regulator. The suit is being followed by recently approved ZyCoV-D of Ahmedabad-based pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila, which stated that the firm will take 4-5 months to
publish phase 3 data.

“I took the first jab of Covaxin as there was lot of sense of national worth attached to it in the beginning. Though, now that I am here for my second dose and I see people preferring Covishield over Covaxin, I regret my decision. Also, I now see more and more news reports of Covaxin not publishing their final efficacy data for a long time, and I am worried if I made the right choice,” says Anshul Patel, a Paldi resident waiting for his jab at Tagore Hall on Friday.

Based on a hypothesis

The theory that third wave will likely hit children gained momentum following the argument that kids would remain unvaccinated for a longer period. While experts maintain that there could be some risk to kids, it does not necessarily mean that they would be the ones to be the most affected.

Dr Sanket Mankad, infectious diseases specialist, Ahmedabad, explains the idea that the third wave might affect children more is hypothetical as there is no
scientific evidence to support the same. “That being said, vaccinations for kids should be the priority of the government. In any case, a treatment protocol for children who might get affected by the virus should be decided and followed all across,” he maintains.

Dr Nishchal Bhatt, child specialist and an active member of the Academy of Paediatrics, Gujarat, says, “We saw a considerable number of children in the 6- months-17 years age group being affected in the second wave. However, 90 to 95% of them recovered at home
with symptomatic medicine. Only 5-10% of Covid affected children, who already had some co-morbidities, required hospitalisation. A very small number required
remdesivir or steroid treatment.”

The Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) released a statement stating, “Children are as susceptible as adults and older individuals to develop infection but not severe
disease. It is highly unlikely that the third wave will predominantly or exclusively affect children.”

Are hospitals prepared?
Health authorities in the city are tight-lipped about their preparedness for a Covid third wave, while an on-ground perusal reveals lack of proper directives and ad-hoc measures in place. “The attitude is: we will deal with the third wave when it arrives,” says a resident doctor at Sola Civil Hospital on condition of anonymity.

A nurse working in the Covid ward at the same hospital said the horrors of the second wave, if continued into the third wave, would be difficult to manage. “I saw people dying while waiting for beds and relatives begging for admission. I don’t know how severe the
third wave will be, but if it’s anything like the second wave, the situation would be much grimmer,” she explains.

In an answer submitted in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya had revealed that until July 2021, Gujarat was the state that procured highest number of ventilators (5,700), closely followed by Maharashtra
(5,554) and Uttar Pradesh (5,416). This was despite the claims of the state government of lesser caseload compared to the other two states during the second wave.

When asked if there was official notification regarding preparedness for paediatric care, the senior health officials of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) said they are “prepared” and have been “liaising with several private paediatrics hospital across the city to ensure mitigation of the third wave.”

AMC Standing Committee Chairperson Hitesh Barot said the corporation was actively allotting funds for setting up of ventilators in private hospital across Ahmedabad. “As we speak, 250 ventilators are being set up in private hospitals,” he says. Barot adds that the corporation was still identifying paediatric wards that could be used if Covid hit kids in the third wave.

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