2020: End of Coronavirus-dominated year!

As the world came together to celebrate the end of a decade on December 31, 2019, global health officials were told of the emergence of a mystery virus which would go on to dominate the year to come. Few will miss much about 2020. Despite the trauma it inflicted, reflecting on this historic period helps us to learn from it and move on. The year 2020 was Covid-19 dominated the year in true sense. But even before it emerged as a global catastrophe in February, the year had much eventful start.  The World Health Organisation was informed of patients suffering from a form of pneumonia in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province. What would soon be determined to be a new form of coronavirus - named Covid-19 - would go on to greatly impact billions of lives over the course of a hugely turbulent 12 months for the entire planet. A year on, more than 82 million infections have been recorded across the globe, resulting in the loss of 1.8 million lives. As far as India is concerned, Covid-19 cases in the country have crossed the 10.22 million-mark on Wednesday. According to the health ministry website, there are 262,272 active cases of Covid-19 and 98, 341, 41 people have recovered from the disease so far.
Amid concerns of the new strain  Covid-19 spreading in India, AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine getting approved for use in the UK was a “big step forward” and India was days away from getting a vaccine. In the fortnight between December 14, when the first American received a Coronavirus vaccine, and December 29, the United States vaccinated 2.13 million people. However, the first month of vaccine rollout has not been smooth elsewhere too. In Germany, delays were reported at several sites after temperature logs showed some of the vaccine boxes did not maintain the temperatures required for the Pfizer-BioNTech dose – potentially damaging stocks. In Canada, which approved two vaccines, supplies came in a slow trickle. In the United Kingdom, where Pfizer estimated four million doses were made available, only 800,000 have been administered. Teething troubles are not uncommon in any exercise with such a number of moving parts — the factory-to-syringe process includes a range of people and modes of transportation — but they can be costly at a time when we are racing against the pandemic.
These experiences hold important lessons for India. The country did well to begin mock drills, giving its digital management platform as well as human resource training an early shakedown. Officials must look at the experiences in other countries and keep open the scope to tweak or overhaul protocols, including how India selects and prioritises the groups of people who are first in line for a dose.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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