The first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in the early months of 2020. The health care providers in India had to struggle immensely as it did not have enough ventilators and essential items such as PPE kits and masks to prevent the spread of infection. A year later, India was in the grip of the second wave and it ravaged the entire nation. Suddenly, there was a shortage of beds in the hospitals and oxygen supply because the number of daily cases rose to an uncontrollable level.
Everyone is apprehensive about the third wave that can bring new challenges not only for the government but also for the people. The third wave can be an aggregate of several ripples across the country. If or when it arrives, there will be new challenges such as lack of pediatric COVID care facilities, improper health infrastructure in the rural areas and shortage of medicines. The government also has to see the possible warning of the effectiveness of the vaccine in people who got the shot early.
There is no definitive answer to when a third wave can hit us. All would depend on how we follow COVID appropriate behaviour, how quickly we can provide good effective vaccine coverage, and whether a far more infectious variant emerges later.
We need to make sure we have a pandemic plan which we have tried, tested and learned from. We also need to ensure that we can respond based on the size of our population. What we have learned from the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world is that, as in most aspects of health, prevention is more important than finding a cure.
With many states reopening the schools, the looming threat of the third wave has caused worries. Unvaccinated children have again become a point of concern across the country because children below 18 years remain unvaccinated in India. The decision has to be made efficiently and quickly for vaccinating children below 18 years of age.
Due to extensive vaccination all over the country, there could be less hospitalization in the third wave. Though COVID-19 has affected less number of children there is a chance that they could be more exposed to the virus in the third wave because children below 18 years are not vaccinated. Therefore, governments of states should be ready with proper treatment facilities for children whether in primary or tertiary care. The choice of medications in treating pregnant women with active infection of COVID remains a major challenge. What we need is more trained health care professionals like doctors and nurses in paediatrics to take care of it. There are existing private children’s hospitals with decent ICU capacities in the private sector.
Data suggests that the availability of public health care facilities is low as compared to private health facilities that affect a large number of poor populations. The unavailability of proper medical facilities in public health departments has put challenges before the government and this should be improved to meet the challenges of the third wave. Government should try to open more public health facilities with proper treatment facilities and equipment to deal with the severity of the third wave.
In case of any public health crisis due to a pandemic, an individual’s safety and health depend on another’s and that of the whole community. This is even true when concerning women and children as they are most vulnerable and are seen as dependents and passive members of our society. Hence, to prepare for their overall care, general family and community health need to be strengthened.
Take public health seriously because a healthy population will usually be more resistant to infection. Thus, the health care providers should take proper measures to provide the best health care facilities for children and women to restrict any damage if a third wave arrives.