The coronavirus curve in Pakistan has been flattening and recently infectious disease experts have said that no major peaks are expected in the country now.
On Friday, Pakistan reported 630 new cases bringing the coronavirus tally to 291,587. Of these, 11,790 are active cases–a number that has been steadily declining. Over the past 24 hours, 10 deaths were recorded. The same trend has been observed since the end of July, which is why most doctors and the government believe the peak was recorded mid-June.
The flattening of the curve has perplexed experts, most of whom attribute it to a combination of successful targeted lockdowns by the government and pre-existing immunity in the population.
“The role of immunity will become clearer and manifest itself in the coming months where we expect minor surges from time to time but no major peaks,” the Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society Pakistan told SAMAA Digital.
As more people are exposed, immunity to the virus builds in the population. This reduces the number of susceptible people over a period of time and may be one of the factors in flattening the curve, they added.
The MMIDSP is the representative body of infectious disease specialists in Pakistan with over 2,500 members. The society’s members and public health experts at the NIH have been involved in the country’s pandemic response since January.
They commented on a few more theories that have been put forward to explain the decline of the virus.
Some researchers have suggested that the BCG vaccine, given at birth to protect against tuberculosis, had a role to play in building our immunity. Studies carried out in the US and India suggested that countries which had active BCG programmes appeared to have better disease outcomes.
However, a study of over 72,000 people in Israel “does not support the idea that BCG vaccination in childhood has a protective effect against COVID-19 in adulthood.”
“The BCG vaccine has immunomodulatory effects on the immune system,” says the MMIDSP.
This means the vaccine can change the response of the immune system, making it stronger.
“However, whether it is protective against COVID remains to be studied in larger populations before we know what to recommend.”
For now, the MMIDSP doesn’t recommend using the vaccine for prevention against the new coronavirus.
Our demographic also has a key role to play. Pakistan has more young people than old, which some say is behind the relatively low mortality rate.
According to the National Institute of Health’s weekly report up to August 1, these are the most affected age groups in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Here is an overall picture of deaths in the country shared in Sindh health department’s daily situation report for August 19:
The current death toll is 6,190, whereas countries with comparable populations such as Brazil and Russia have had 108,536 and 15,872 deaths, respectively.
Known risk factors that increase mortality include older age and the presence underlying diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and ischemic heart disease which increase due to old age.
“Some very good vaccines are currently undergoing clinical trials,” the MMIDSP says. “The basic principles of vaccine development are being followed and good data is coming out on immune response to these vaccines and their acceptable side effect profile.”
According to the World Health Organisation, there are seven in the final stages of testing. They haven’t included Russia’s vaccine which was approved without phase III trials. However, they have expressed eagerness to review studies on the vaccine when they’re available.
In Pakistan the government has been reassuring people that a coronavirus vaccine will be here soon. Earlier, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan gave permission to the National Institute of Health to conduct phase III clinical trials in the country for a coronavirus vaccine developed by China
For now it seems as if the country’s COVID-19 situation is stable.