Vaccination alone not a magic bullet to end pandemic

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Vaccination was not a silver bullet, and it had to be supplemented by other initiatives to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof Manuj Weerasinghe, Head of the Department of Community Medicine, University of Colombo, said.

Boosting immunity was vital for overcoming any virus, and vaccine played a big role in the fight against COVID-19, he said. However, vaccines alone were not the only way to overcome the pandemic, the Professor said.

“If we think we can get out through this crisis by vaccination alone, we won’t do the other initiatives needed, we won’t educate the people on what they really need to do, in fact we will give people the wrong idea that everything is good after getting vaccinated. Vaccination is important. It’s very clear that it saves lives and reduced the severity of the disease. However, vaccination won’t stop you getting infected or spreading it to others,” he said.

Prof. Weerasinghe said that the role and purpose of the vaccination was not properly understood by the people and when they got infected, after getting double jabbed, they assumed that the vaccine they had taken was not effective.

“This is why some people say on social media that they got the X vaccine and still they got COVID. They then go on to discredit the vaccine they had taken. This is bad for everyone. The government needs to communicate properly. Because of our over reliance on vaccine, both policy makers and the people are not doing what is needed to stop the pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile Professor Chrishantha Abeysena, Senior Professor Department of Public Health, University of Kelaniya said when the decision to lockdown was taken too late; more time was needed to open the country again.

“As with everything in life, we have to make the call at the right time. I think everyone agrees that at least two weeks is needed for a lockdown to have some effect. However just because we imposed a lockdown doesn’t mean that things are going to work out fine, especially given that we are not seeing a strict lockdown,” he said.

Prof. Abeysena said that the government had to increase testing because there was community spread. Those infected needed to be found, they needed to be isolated along with their first contacts, he said.

“If we do this, we can get the pandemic under control. There is a WHO protocol on lockdowns and given that there is a community spread, the pandemic had become a social issue too. Hospital capacity is still a big problem,” he said,

Prof. Abeysena added that Sri Lanka now needed to figure out how it could operate after the lockdowns were lifted. The policy makers should come up with systems and protocols and communicate effectively with the general public, he said.

“If we don’t do this, there is no point in extending the lockdown even for another month. We also need to do testing and isolation. If we do this the numbers will drop and the health staff will get a breather. However, we must ensure that there are practical protocols after we open up. We are now at a disaster stage, although we had time to get ready. We have 18 months of living with the virus and we need to start learning lessons,” he said.

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