Hours after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) gave a go-ahead to two COVID-19 vaccines, Director-General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Dr Balram Bhargava said face masks may probably never go out of regular consumption since the duration of the vaccines' efficacy remains uncertain.
Dr Bhargava said, "We don't know how much of the population we'll have to vaccinate to break the virus transmission. What we know is that we've been able to control the pandemic in the country by following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour... I am of the opinion that masks will probably be the last to go and probably may never even go."
Wearing a face mask is also crucial in India's fight against coronavirus because the government plans to inoculate 30 crore priority population over the next two months. This priority population comprises healthcare workers and frontline workers. After this, the over-50 population and those less than 50 but with comorbidities will be immunised.
While the continued use of face masks will prevent COVID-19 transmission, it is already impacting marine life severely. As per a report by the environmental conservation group Ocean-Asia, there are 1.56 billion single-use face masks in the ocean. This amounts to 4,680-6,240 metric tonnes of plastic pollution.
The drug regulator has so far approved two jabs to counter the spread of coronavirus - SII-AstraZeneca's Covishield and Bharat Biotech-ICMR's Covaxin for emergency use. The DCGI has also approved Zydus Cadila's shot Zy-CoVD for phase-3 clinical trials.
With agency inputs; by Mehak Agarwal