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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Vaccines are the key to sustainability

Without increasing vaccinations, we cannot restore economic stability


Print and electronic media, coupled with social media, have unfortunately contributed to creating disinformation and fake news on the ongoing pandemic crisis, medical treatment, and vaccines.

Researchers on media monitoring on fake news argue that media has often fallen prey to misinformation and rumours about coronavirus and vaccines, especially when the newsroom gatekeepers failed to fact-check within the stipulated deadline.

In this tsunami-like pandemic from east to west, north to south in early 2020, the doctors, physicians, and even virologists and epidemiologists -- who were indeed the prime source for newsroom scribes -- initially gave confusing and contradictory sermons coated with medical jargon, which regrettably incited fake news, based on disinformation.

Despite hosts of myths being busted by the World Health Organization (WHO), both the frontline health care doctors and journalists kept their ears, eyes, and minds shut to myth-busters, like the three wise monkeys in folklore.

Sermons like hot water baths, drinking tea or hot water with traditional spices, eating garlic or peppers in food, application of hydroxychloroquine or malarial drugs, vitamin and mineral supplements, administration of antibiotics, exposure to the sun, and hosts of other remedies failed to prevent the deadly infection.

Leading epidemiologist Dr Mushtuq Husain explained that coronavirus is caused by a deadly virus, and is not a bacteria. There are several scientific studies to prove that vaccines do not compromise natural immunity, he also remarked.

Meanwhile, WHO reiterates that everybody should wear masks, especially in crowds indoors, but the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks to protect themselves from the virus.

The scientific statement was also validated by John Hopkins University, Oxford University, and Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, where researchers are spending sleepless nights to conclude that the efficacy and immunity of vaccinated people are protected even from new variants.

Virus experts and epidemiologists also offer mixed advice, but largely agree on one point: Whether or not a fully vaccinated person needs to wear a mask.

Well, mask mandates are intended to protect the unvaccinated -- people who are vaccinated are already well-protected by vaccines, and infection by new variants is still very rare.

It was logically argued that since a person cannot tell who is vaccinated and who is not, the best would be to advise all to wear a mask, which can help stop the spread of the virus by people who are infected, especially those who don’t have any symptoms.

Bangladesh was initially bogged down in the vaccine divide while procuring vaccines. Finally, the government has been able to negotiate with countries and pharmaceutical industries for a reasonable quantity of vaccines.

Despite the emergence of vaccines, the experts have strongly argued that the coronavirus is here to stay for a long period; the world has to embrace the new normal. On the other hand, experts conclude that vaccines are the key to restoring economic stability.

Leading economists in the country advise that accelerating the vaccine’s distribution will be necessary before the economy sees any long-lasting improvement. They strongly disagree that countering the lockdown in a pandemic with a stimulus is the wrong approach to economic recovery.

“We have to get enough vaccinations to enable people to feel comfortable in social settings. That’s the key to getting back to normal; then only would we have a great 2021,” observed top economist Dr Hossain Zillur, who has recently conducted an intensive study on the pandemic and its impact on disadvantaged populations.

First published in the Dhaka Tribune, 6 July 2021

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at; Twitter @saleemsamad

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