Let testing go on

April 10, 2021 0 By FM

Despite the progress in vaccination, there is still a need for Indiato augment its testing capabilities by using on-the-spot antigen testing kits. In countries like New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan and Singapore, testing was rolled out rapidly and in a widespread fashion. This helped to return life to normal even before vaccinations began. Such experiences clearly suggest that tests play an important role in containing the spread of COVID-19. Besides helping with clinical decision making, diagnostics also aid in disease surveillance, crucial to develop informed public health strategies. Lastly, it also helps screen the general public that is not at risk so as to understand the levels of exposure to infection in this segment.

Currently, the major problem is that many countries, including India, are very reactive in deploying COVID-19 tests, using them only to confirm suspected cases rather than to evaluate the spread of infection. We need better tools for the evaluation and surveillance of infections. There is a need to proactively develop strategies to look for the virus in broader groups of people so that pockets of infections can be identified before full-blown episodes come into the picture, and slowly more public spaces can be reopened even without widespread vaccinations. However, COVID-19 testing is moving in the wrong direction as it is now being primarily used only for diagnostics for clinical decision making. In fact, the efficacy of the ongoing vaccination program needs to be reconfirmed via testing. For instance, a major focus area for health officials is the positivity rate of tests. The fraction of tests which yield positive results can help us figure out transmission rates during and after major vaccination drives.

The fact that we now have different types of vaccines with a range of effectiveness is a good step towards arresting the pandemic. However, there are a few unknowns about how well these vaccines work, especially with new variants emerging rapidly. There is also good evidence that vaccines may not only prevent deaths, but also large-scale disease transmission. However, it is not clear how long this protection lasts. Several variants of the virus seem to evade the body’s immune actions that are based on its experience with previous infections and vaccines.Therefore, continued testing is important to monitor the spread of infection. If not, the likelihood of more dangerous and evasive variants of the virus spreading undetected is very high. Constant monitoring and testing is a major requirement to keep abreast of new variants. Even if one country reaches herd immunity by vaccinating the majority of its population, that will not be enough,
as new variants will continue to evolve in other parts of the world. Therefore, vaccinations across the world and continual vigilance using new testing technologies are important to curtail the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.