For centuries, vaccines have been one of humanity’s most intense and successful public health interventions, preventing illness and death on a gigantic scale, eradicating the global spread of the likes of smallpox, and more recently, polio. The efficacy and impact of vaccines on the reduction and decline of outbreaks of less-deadly diseases such as the measles, mumps, rubella, and tuberculosis, are backed by decades of clinical evidence from independent studies.
While some nations, such as the UK are celebrating the success of its Covid-19 vaccination programmes, others with reduced GDP, are struggling to get access to adequate supply of any anti-Covid vaccine. Luckily for us, Mauritius is faring comparatively well compared to most countries.
However, several ‘cocovid’ scepti- cal, ignorant of the 4.4 million deaths (and still counting) and emerging associated conditions, such as long Covid, are not just still contemplating to have or not to have the vaccine but are often spreading and encouraging fake news linked to the vaccines. In my own practice, I am repeatedly asked the same question: “Doc ou panse mo bezoin fer sa vaksin la?” What knocks me off is that often these patients are supposedly of the ‘educated’ cohort, with a sense of rationality!
The consequence of this unfounded vaccine resistance is, at least partly, responsible for the spread of the disease at the unprecedented pace that we are currently witnessing on the island and causing otherwise much preventable (mental and physical) health and economic suffering. This senseless behaviour, albeit from a minority, is likely to prolong (recklessly) the scale of the pandemic in Mauritius, but importantly, exposing us all to the risk of emerging variants of the virus, against which current vaccines may not be effective.
A virus that cannot spread and infect its hosts has no chance to mutate, this is the simple rule of pathogen evolution. Simply put, if you are vaccinated, the chances that you will transmit the virus to others will be lower or negligible. Thus, a lower rate of transmission equates to lower rate of mutations, and it becomes less likely that folks will become ill with the Covid-19 infection. In brief, the higher the number of unvaccinated people, the higher is the risk of the virus spreading, with subsequent exponential rise in contamination of the general population, and ultimately, a national public health crisis.
A preview of what could follow is already available! The soaring number of infections among our people has started to have direct impact on quarantine provisions such that the state has no choice but to implement isolation at home. If this trend continues, we can expect to see a potential buckling of our state (and quite possibly, also the private) healthcare system, as has been the case in many countries, including the developed ones. With the huge number of patients requiring routine follow-ups for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses, we might well be faced with the perfect storm.
Vaccines have been shown to curb the rate of infection, severity of disease, morbidity and death related to Covid-19. So, unless one has an absolute contraindication to the vaccine or its components, perhaps it is time to consider mandatory vaccination for the sake of those with weaker or compromised health.
There is now emerging evidence demonstrating that nations that have had sluggish or turbulent vaccine rollouts are facing challenges with border re-opening plans being delayed or compromised. As it stands, mankind should be grateful that the current vaccines provide adequate protection level against the dominant delta variant, without which, undoubtedly the infection rate, serious form of the illness and ultimately, death would have been significantly higher
Countries with successful vaccination programmes have now relaxed some or nearly all of the restrictions placed on day-to-day living and have started to cautiously regain economic momentum. Our little Mauritius should be joining the league hopefully soon.
by Dr Iswaraj RAMRACHEYA
Consultant Diabetologist, Endocrinologist and Physician (Oxford, UK) MBBS MRCGP MRCP(UK) MRCP (Endocrinology and Diabetes) CCT (General Practice, Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Diabetes)