Deteriorating air quality
Breathing in big cities of the world is increasingly becoming injurious to health. Recently, Karachi earned the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city of the world, with Lahore and Delhi occupying the second and third positions, respectively, on the list. On Wednesday morning, the port city ranked first on a global Air Quality Index (AQI) as the AQI stood at 331, a level considered extremely harmful. At the same time, in Lahore this was recorded at 280. By 11 am, the AQI in Karachi had come down to 221, which is considered harmful. An AQI of 151-200 is unhealthy; more unhealthy when ranging from 201 to 300 and highly hazardous above 300. Around this time on the same day, Bulgaria’s capital city, Sophia, was at the top of the list of the most polluted cities of the world, followed by Delhi, Lahore and Karachi.
As a matter of fact the air quality in most cities of Pakistan has been deteriorating over the years, with Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad being the worst affected. Every year, the air quality starts to deteriorate from September-October and this continues up to February-end. Unfortunately, actions needed to control the air quality are not much in evidence. Industries burning coal and tyres, brick-kilns operating without safety measures in place against air pollution, putting on fire crop residue on farms to save on expenses, and burning of garbage in the open are mainly contributing to the growing air pollution. In April this year, a noticeable improvement in air quality in Karachi had been noticed, though it was in the main the result of a strict lockdown then in force in the city.
This winter the deteriorating quality of air is posing an unprecedented danger to public health because of the coronavirus pandemic, so there was the need for strict enforcement of environmental laws. Things have been left on autopilot for long. This is usual, but ridiculous.
The vaccine is here
So Britain is going to be the first major testing ground for what is being billed as the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine — a collaborative work of the US-based Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. However, the political race to be the first to roll out the much-anticipated anti-Covid shots has led to China and Russia offering different vaccinations to their citizens ahead of late-stage testing. According to the Russian health minister, 100,000 high-risk people have already been vaccinated in Russia as part of a mass vaccination programme rolled out for Sputnik V, the “first registered vaccine against Covid-19”. Apart from that, the US and the European Union also are vetting the Pfizer shot along with a similar vaccine made by competitor Moderna Inc.
The UK, meanwhile, is all set to start vaccinating its people as early as next week in a major step towards taming the deadly pandemic. The kingdom has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine; and since two vaccine shots three week apart are required for one person to develop immunity, it means the first order will cater to 20 million people. Even though early results suggest the vaccine is 95% effective at preventing mild to severe Covid-19 disease, there are questions whose answers will only be available with time, such as: Will the Pfizer-BioNTech shots protect against people spreading the coronavirus without showing any symptoms? How long will the protection last? How will the vaccine affect pregnant women as well as children under 12 on whom the vaccine has not been tested.
There are other challenges too, like in the shape of anti-vaxxers. Doctors are already confronting skeptics. According to media reports, resistance is also coming from people in the developed world — let alone those in the developing countries where resistance to vaccines among some groups is no news. Conspiracy theories, like the vaccination being a sinister DNA altering exercise, also abound. So here we go!