Puzzle out how to make vax ring-fences succeed

Source: Live Mint

Relevance: A forest fire-based ring-fence approach is useful to contain Covid spread also.

Synopsis: The concept of using vaccine rings to prevent Covid flare-ups deserves a try.


For the past two months, the deadly 2nd wave of Covid has been waning, but the number of daily infections is alarmingly high. Over the previous week, India reported an average of more than 42,000 daily new cases, approximately a tenth of our peak of over 414,000 on May 6.

What is ring vaccination?

The ongoing public immunisation program, which aims to reach all adults, is critical, but it will require twice the daily rate of a little over 4 million shots reported over the previous week.

  • Thus, center has written to states, requesting that “ring vaccination” be carried out in places where more than a tenth of all covid tests are positive. 
    • This will include selecting high-case zones within a wide radius of each outbreak. People here will be vaccinated on a priority basis. When a high-risk zone is surrounded by covid-resistant people, the virus will not be able to travel too far in any direction.
  • A ring-fence like this appears to be modeled after what is done in some countries to confine forest fires. Trees are chopped and an inert ‘moat’ is set around a wildfire to keep the flames from spreading.
What needs to be done?
  • Firstly, unique vaccine allotments and precise calculations of the size of a circle to vaccinate are needed, if the idea of a vax ring is to be tested.
  • Secondly, every flare speed up will have to be calculated and evaluated against the creation of antibodies. The time between dosages needs to be shortened because the latter is a much slower process. To maximize the effort, a lot of charting and planning would be required.
  • Thirdly, ring-fences rely on accurate data and their success would depend on the accuracy of the approach. At the time of the last count, India had 73 districts with a covid positivity rate of 10% or higher, with three-fifths in the northeast and a few in Kerala. Vaccines should be delivered quickly to these locations. 
    • A diagnostic scale-up will help, but we must also work to reduce the ‘image’ motivation for states to under count instances.
  • Lastly, we’d also require supporting data sources. Aarogya Setu app’s analysis of all-India data was supposed to provide us with early warnings of local outbreaks, but it has fallen short of that promise. This digital tracker could still be helpful if we rebuild it.
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