Vaccine Clinic

Shruti Patel administers the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Wyndham Lancaster Resort and Convention Center in East Lampeter Township on Saturday, March 6, 2021. The vaccination clinic was organized by the South Asian Association of Lancaster, which now is raising money to help India, where COVID-19 cases and deaths are skyrocketing.

THE ISSUE

India has seen more than 20 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 226,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The New York Times reported this Wednesday: “Official estimates of the nationwide infection toll — well above 300,000 a day — are probably undercounted, epidemiologists say. The reported figure will mostly likely rise to 500,000 cases a day by August, they say, leaving as many as one million of India’s 1.4 billion people dead” from COVID-19.

Lancaster County is still considered an area of high risk for coronavirus transmission, but trends appear to be moving in the right direction.

As LNP | LancasterOnline reports, “infection rates remain high and spread of the virus remains a major concern,” but “case and hospitalization rates are now showing improvement as more than half of the county’s adult population is now at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus.”

Gov. Tom Wolf will lift the state’s COVID-19 mitigation measures, except for the public mask mandate, on Memorial Day. Ballparks, movie theaters, restaurants and other public spaces soon will be able to return to full capacity.

Across the globe in India, the picture is far different. The situation there is dire. As The New York Times reported Wednesday, “Hospitals are full, oxygen supplies are dwindling, and sick people are dying as they wait to see doctors. As workers leave locked-down cities for their home villages, experts fear that the exodus could accelerate the spread of the virus in rural areas, as a similar one did last year.”

For members of the South Asian Association of Lancaster, sitting by as tragedy unfolds in India was not an option.

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Aniya Thomas reported in Wednesday’s edition, “Manish Jhunjhunwala is among many in Lancaster County worried about their relatives in India as the country continues to be ravaged by COVID-19.”

The president of the South Asian Association of Lancaster said, of his parents, “I’m far from them, and I can’t see them with everything going on.”

This is “hard,” Jhunjhunwala said, “but that’s why we’re working to do what we can to help.”

What the South Asian Association of Lancaster is doing is raising $30,000 to purchase 30 oxygen concentrators to send to India. As Thomas reported, these machines “remove nitrogen from the air to deliver pure oxygen to people.”

So far, the association has raised about half the money. According to its Facebook page, “Local organizations in India will be contacted to ensure that this help reaches those who need it most.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted Wednesday that the United States has sent four planes to India containing rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests, oxygen concentrators, N95 masks, oxygen cylinders, pulse oximeters and other medical supplies. This is great news.

But again, India is a country of 1.4 billion people. It needs all the help it can get.

Which is why we hope readers will consider, if they’re able, donating to the South Asian Association of Lancaster’s fundraiser.

One of the organization’s founding members is Dr. Maulik Patel, a pulmonologist, critical care physician and medical director of critical care at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.

Dr. Patel — like countless Americans who have parents and other relatives in India — has been working long and grueling hours caring for fellow Americans sickened by COVID-19 over the past 13-plus months. As a physician who specializes in respiratory disease, Patel has been on the front lines of the battle against this lethal disease in Lancaster County.

And as the medical director who oversees Lancaster General Hospital’s intensive care unit, Patel has been at the very front of the front lines.

He and the South Asian Association of Lancaster also organized a vaccination clinic to ensure more Lancaster County residents are protected against COVID-19. Patel and others have given up their Saturdays since February to administer some 18,000 vaccine doses so far.

“I cannot tell you how many times people were in tears of relief knowing that their vaccination, provided by us, was one step toward ending the pandemic,” Jenni Leister of the South Asian Association of Lancaster told LNP | LancasterOnline’s Thomas in an email.

The contributions of members of the local South Asian community to the fight against COVID-19 here have been invaluable.

Now they are trying to help the people of India. As Leister told Thomas, “Another step, now, is to help countries like India battle COVID-19 so that together, as a world, we can rebuild.”

Helping our fellow county residents in this effort would be an excellent way of thanking them for what they’ve done to help this county in this pandemic.

“India’s health care system is overwhelmed and needs help from the world’s community, from the (central Pennsylvania) community, to get the much-needed medical materials,” Leister said.

The truth is that countries and people are interconnected. What happens in another part of the world affects us, too — and it affects some of our fellow Americans directly. Which is why we were heartened to read a statement from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday declaring the Biden-Harris administration’s support for waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines — an important step toward getting more people around the globe vaccinated.

According to The Washington Post, developing countries have sought this waiver, as it will allow them to more quickly produce their own generic vaccines.

“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” Tai stated.

Indeed.

Extraordinary measures already have been taken on our behalf by Dr. Patel and his colleagues. We only can imagine the frustration, exhaustion and anguish of battling this protracted pandemic in Lancaster County, and now having to worry about family members and friends in India.

The distribution of resources in India has been so haphazard that people there have been scrambling, searching and pleading for medical oxygen to keep their loved ones alive. People there are dying for lack of oxygen.

Please contribute if you can.

HOW TO HELP:

Donations can be made online at saal.us/a/ and facebook.com/saalpa or by mailing a check to the South Asian Association of Lancaster, 719 Farnum Road, Lititz, PA 17543. (Write “India COVID Relief” in the memo line.)

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