Coronavirus waves may have dawdled but it is not over yet, says expert

Pakistan’s renowned infectious disease specialist, Dr. Umar Saeed has said that the coronavirus waves may have dawdled but it is not over yet.
Dr. Saeed, who has contributed greatly to the field of Molecular Medicine and has educational background of having Ph.D. and Post. Doc from South Korea, expressed these views when contacted for his insights over the pandemic spread.
Dr. Saeed, having fellowship in clinical research from Harvard, USA, to FPH from Royals College UK and being a Member of CDA, USA said that the covid pandemic was not over yet and that there were multiple reports of infection from many areas. He said that since the virus was RNA-based, it had a high potential of mutating itself and therefore, the vaccines that were currently available in the market were not able to cover all the variants of Sars-cov2.

He further said that the mutations cannot be fully predicted in terms of lethality and spread rate as those were specific to the origin of replication. “For example, the Omicron variant was not as lethal as SARS-COV2 but did have a faster infection rate. In effect, the tendency of the viruses to mutate renders the ability of vaccines ineffective. Research also suggests that booster doses are required to maintain antibodies over time if immunity is to be upheld,” said Dr. Saeed.

He said that since the winter had started to fall, the risk of infections was likely to go increased which could result into increase in chances of undetected viruses and intermingling of other viruses such as the influenza virus etc.

“Generally, there is little risk of co-infection as the virus takes up the cell to proliferate. But in cases of co-infection the vaccines may not be able to do much as detection systems are not in place,” said Dr. Saeed. To a question he said that extra cautious preventive measures should be taken in the time of winter and advised the public to maintain the earlier precautionary measures of social distancing, mask-wearing, frequent usage of sanitizers, monitoring of the rate of Covid cases and other such adequate prevention measures as it will prove to be highly effective method to protect from other respiratory diseases as well. He warned that unprecedented disasters may follow if proper stance is not adopted by the global community. Dr. Saeed further commented on the policies, adopted by the developed world in comparison to Pakistan. The liberty that many countries have taken to ‘open up’, is not advisable. Even if one is vaccinated, they have the chance of infection. Since there are other age categories in all public areas, one still carries the risk of infecting those with weaker natural immunities, he said.

The specialist said that children of all ages were not fully vaccinated so the chance of spreading the infection to them remains the same therefore vigilance in public conduct was very seriously required. He further stated that preventive policy was the model behaviour and it relied heavily on the behaviour of the masses.

To this, he said that the Chinese people set an example forth wherein their excellent well-disciplined behaviour paved their way out of the predicament of the pandemic and the masses in China strictly followed the preventive policies, introduced by the government whereas in the Western world, where the idea of ‘herd immunity’ was emphasized remained a far-fetched dream.

Because it takes a long duration to achieve, it may not prove suitable to raise health concerns about drawbacks of vaccination around the world. Additionally, vaccines are not readily available for all variants as the mutation is currently ongoing. Therefore, the focus should be on prevention. On the other hand, the US bore the loss of more than a million people due to its healthcare system as it heavily relies on insurance policies. Whereas in Pakistan, the government provides a major portion of healthcare for its people. Lastly, Dr. Saeed suggests that Pakistan cannot afford the liberties of those in the developed world, due to a lack of resources and proper research and development. Therefore, our efforts should remain on preventing the spread rather than inaction. So that the economy and people of Pakistan may not suffer at the hands of the pandemic still at large.

–Mir Chakar Hamza & Warda Ishaq contributed for this piece.