The Centre today underscored the need to step up vaccination ahead of the coming festive season, saying vaccines save life in 98 per cent of the cases even if there is any breakthrough infection. "The pandemic is far from over... globally. We have to be careful... We may be tired, but not the virus, this is an alert for us," said VK Paul, chairman of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration.
Reminding people that the second wave of Covid, which swept through the country in the summer, is not yet over, he said the rate of infection, which had dropped in some districts, is rising again. The states of the northeast -- especially Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya -- and Kerala, he said, are cases in point and causes for concern.
At this point, health experts are saying that vaccination and vigilance are the only two ways ahead.
"While no vaccine has a 100 per cent guarantee, all vaccines, even our own, shows that the chance of serious disease is nearly eliminated. The chance of death is nearly eliminated," said VK Paul.
"The fact is that when there is so much of viral replication, there are problems. Variants can emerge. And vulnerable population in any part of the country remains susceptible. Avoid unnecessary travel. Avoid mass gathering," he said, then added that this is "No time for largescale festivities".
The first wave of Covid had hit the country hard last year amid the festive season, as people relaxed vigilance against the virus and ceased to follow safety measures.
About re-opening of schools, he said states are taking decision in this regard. While accelerated vaccinations are allowed by guidelines for specific sections in the 18 to 44 year age group, it is a "tight rope walk".
"Not easy to expose teachers, children. And this has to be weighed against reopening. It is very important that SOPs are followed," Mr Paul said.