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COVID-19 | What is caution fatigue and how it might have led to second coronavirus wave in India

Authorities have warned people with lockdown again if COVID-19 rules continue to be flouted as experts stress that violation of protocols due to caution fatigue is the main reason behind India witnessing the COVID-19 second wave.

March 22, 2021 / 04:24 PM IST
Representational image (Source: Reuters)

Representational image (Source: Reuters)

After a brief moment of lull and relief, India is back to adding a worrying number of new coronavirus infections daily. As the country stares at a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with 46,951 fresh COVID-19 cases being added in the last 24 hours – the highest since November – experts are suggesting that caution fatigue is to blame this time.

India’s coronavirus case tally as of March 22 is 1,16,46,081, with a sharp surge in cases being reported since the past week. Bulk of these cases continue to be reported from Maharashtra, with the state alone adding over 30,000 new infection in the past 24 hours.

In view of the alarming COVID-19 situation in the country once again, restrictions have returned in several parts of the country. While schools have been shut down once again in several states, in tourist places like Rajasthan, producing a COVID-19 negative certificate has been mandated for those entering the state. Night curfews have returned too, and the staff strength in offices have been reduced in Maharashtra, with the Mumbai civic body also making institutional quarantine mandatory for those flying in from the United Kingdom, Middle East, Europe, Brazil, and South Africa.

Authorities have warned people with lockdown again if COVID-19 rules continue to be flouted as experts stress that violation of protocols due to caution fatigue is the main reason behind India witnessing the COVID-19 second wave.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has also said: "Only few states account for more than 80 percent of the rising cases. The negligence towards COVID appropriate behaviour is the main reason behind it. It is important to ascertain that COVID appropriate behaviour is followed even after the vaccine is available."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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So, what is caution fatigue?

For almost a year, we have been wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, disinfecting surfaces, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding crowded places, to ensure we do not contract COVID-19. Which means, for almost a year, we have lived under immense stress with a constant fear of physical well-being that has drastically upturned our realities.

Considering we have been surviving in such unsettling circumstances, it is but natural for people to feel caution fatigue, which very simply put means, low motivation to adhere to basic hygiene protocols that can help prevent the spread of the viral disease.

While caution fatigue is not a medically diagnosed condition, several mental health professionals and experts of behavioural sciences have pointed at the possibility of such a phenomenon striking mankind.

Over time, it is common for people to lose the initial vigour and sincerity with which they followed all COVID-19 protocols. It starts to wane as people fail to see a positive outcome in the foreseeable future. This, in turn, worsens the pandemic situation, as the disease spreads faster when people let their guards down.

Another reason why caution fatigue sets in, is people who have so far followed all health protocols religiously, find out that no one around them has got affected by the contagious disease. So, people start believing it is a perceived threat that doesn’t pose any real challenge.

Moreover, given a lot of people have already been exposed to the virus, and small pockets of the population reportedly heading towards herd immunity, people have started to believe they have already been infected by the virus and recovered or may actually have recovered from a mild case of COVID-19. Such persons may have the tendency to believe they cannot contract COVID-19 again or spread the disease, making them take coronavirus guidelines lightly. Additionally, the ongoing vaccination drive has also made a section of the population complacent even though they might be pending a second shot of the vaccine.

As Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director at Chennai's ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), had said: “Yes, people are definitely getting tired but unfortunately the virus is not. The virus is here to stay, and we have to adopt certain behavioural changes for the long term. If we become complacent, the virus will continue to spread, and we may see a resurgence of cases.”

At such a time, it is important for government and health authorities to remind people of the dangers of the disease and reinforce their faith in health protocols that have so far kept the virus at bay.

With PTI inputs
Moneycontrol News
first published: Mar 22, 2021 04:24 pm

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