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Thursday, April 1, 2021

spreading panic .. .. - sky is falling ! skylab is falling !!

In the small town of Oakey Oaks, populated by anthropomorphic animals, Chicken Little rings the school bell and warns everyone to run for their lives. This sends the whole town into a frenzied panic. Eventually, the Head of the Fire Department calms down enough to ask him what is going on. He explains that the sky is falling because a piece of the sky shaped like a stop sign had fallen on his head when he was sitting under the big oak tree in the town square; however, he is unable to find the piece. His father, Buck Cluck, who was once a high school baseball star, assumes that this "piece of sky" was just an acorn that had fallen off the tree and had hit him on the head, making Chicken Little the laughingstock of the town.


It is all about people’s reaction – the panic reaction !  The 2019 coronavirus pandemic recently completed its global anniversary. We have seen a year of unprecedented life changes, panic and chaos. After more than two million lives were claimed by the outbreak till date, the world is finally embracing the new normal with renewed hope. The hope of vaccines! Multiple nations across the world have initiated vaccination under emergency authorisation with the aim to effectively tackle the Covid-19 crisis.

Nobody should panic about getting access to a Covid-19 vaccine because everyone who wants one will get one, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. It is another matter that WHO has had no great role in identifying, preventing or in the vaccine .. but ensured that the dreaded Corona virus was so named that it would not reflect any Nation or the place of its origin or spread. The WHO's assistant director-general Mariangela Simao said the UN health agency was working towards ensuring access to coronavirus jabs all around the world.  The WHO co-led Covax facility, a globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort, has struck agreements with five manufacturers for two billion vaccine doses. It aims to secure vaccines for 20 percent of the population in each participating country by the end of the year, with funding covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved.

Back home, the  Uttarakhand government has made it mandatory for devotees attending the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar to bring a COVID-19 negative report. The report must not be older than 72 hours, stated the government. Chief Secretary Om Prakash said that the Uttarakhand High Court has issued directives in this regard. The court also said that either the negative RT-PCR report or the vaccination report is mandatory for devotees to join the congregation.

As another wave of the coronavirus pandemic crashes over Europe, doubts about the safety of one of the most widely available and affordable vaccines has rattled immunisation programmes around the world even though most regulators have again given it a clean chit. Experts also said that adverse effects such as blood clots detected after administration of the AstraZeneca shot, which triggered the alarm, are not linked to the vaccine, and are reported in a higher proportion of the general population compared with a set of people who took the jab. Many European countries including Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway and Iceland suspended AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which threatened to turn widespread disarray into an outright debacle. However, many countries lifted the suspension on March 18 after the European medical regulator said the jab is safe and effective. Concerns about the shot are based on a miniscule  number of recipients who developed blood clots or abnormal bleeding.

India’s massive vaccination drive has been an eye-opener. That the country developed an indigenous vaccine against Covid-19 in less than eight months is itself amazing. But the bigger eye-popping feat is that India has been able to deploy the two vaccines to all corners of India and the globe. Now, even the old colonial master of India, the United Kingdom, is sourcing the vaccine from India even though it was developed in their own backyard. India is fast emerging as the global hub for vaccine manufacture. Experts say increasing the pace of vaccinations in India is a given, and ramping up should happen at a highly accelerated pace since, at the current pace of vaccination, reaching herd immunity may take upwards of two years.

India is not only getting more sure-footed in its own Covid-19 vaccination efforts, but AlSO has powered the roll-out in many nations, through its vaccine maitri.  Now, in a boost for India, countries that are part of the new `Quad’ grouping have declared that vaccines developed in the US will be manufactured by India while being funded by Japan and the inventory resourcing will be helped by Australia. India already supplies 60% of the vaccines sourced by the United Nations for its child immunisation programmes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often described this ‘as an extension of India’s ancient philosophy of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which regards the world as one family.’ The success of the two vaccines that have been deployed is stupendous and there are another 28 candidate Indian vaccines in the pipeline; this is also a fact to be celebrated. The making of the Covishield vaccine is a classic case of India showing its prowess as a low-cost manufacturing hub for quality products.

Coming to panic reaction – it was that of buying all material last year in UK and  in  a joint letter, UK retailers reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping, so that others are not left without much-needed items.  Decades ago in 1979 – rumours ran so high that most people in globe feared a mighty fall – across India, especially Andhrapradesh, fear was high as according to some reports that object from the sky could hurtle in Karimnagar.  Some of them hid their wealth in the wells and some spent all the money they had saved for their enjoyment since they feared that lives would come to an end soon. Reportedly some sold their property and cattle at low prices ! – eventually some pieces were scattered across Australia, but no one on the ground was hit and no property damage was reported.  It was stated that some even walked with helmets on  to protect themselves from the 2,310-kg airlock shroud.

It was a satellite – ‘skylab’ – in June 1979, as the crash approached, Skylab-inspired parties and products were all the rage in the United States. The imminent crash of Skylab midway through 1979 coincided with Americans’ declining confidence in their government. The stagnant economy and a second oil crisis dropped Congress’ approval rating to just 19 percent that year. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that many people took an irreverent view of the demise of Skylab, a government project.   Mocking NASA’s inability to say precisely where Skylab would land, entrepreneurs across the country sold T-shirts emblazoned with large bullseyes.  While Americans used Skylab’s looming demise as an excuse to party in June 1979, people in other countries didn’t take things quite so lightly. Initially, NASA could not specify when or where Skylab would come down, though the agency mapped out a potential debris field that spanned about 7,400 kilometers across the Indian Ocean and Australia. Even those who lived outside the projected debris footprint were nervous, however.

A report commissioned by NASA calculated that the odds were 1 in 152 of debris hitting any human, and odds of 1 in 7 of debris hitting a city of 100,000 people or more.  A week before re-entry, NASA forecast that it would occur between July 10 and 14, with the 12th the most likely date, and the Royal Aircraft Establishment predicted the 14th.  In the hours before the event, ground controllers adjusted Skylab's orientation to minimize the risk of re-entry on a populated area.  They aimed the station at a spot 810 miles (1,300 km) south-southeast of Cape Town, South Africa, and re-entry began at approximately 16:37 UTC, July 11, 1979.   Debris landed about 300 miles (480 km) east of Perth, Western Australia due to a four-percent calculation error, and was found between Esperance, Western Australia and Rawlinna,  around Balladonia, Western Australia.

The Miss Universe 1979 pageant was scheduled for July 20, 1979 in Perth, and a large piece of Skylab debris was displayed on the stage. Skylab was the first United States space station, launched by NASA, occupied for about 24 weeks between May 1973 and Feb 1974. Major operations included an orbital workshop, a solar observatory, Earth observation, and hundreds of experiments.

After months of relentless suffering, the global community is finally getting some hope. Isn’t this what we all wanted? There is no obligation to take the vaccine, so each of us can agree to disagree in a democracy. While scientific scepticism is warranted, it should not lead to rumour-mongering. In today’s fast-paced digital world, authentic information is almost always at our fingertips, should we seek it. It is our choice: to take the vaccine, refrain from it, get infected with Covid-19, or run away from it for the rest of our lives, but let us not confuse others who have probably already made up their mind.

The starting para is the storyline of “Chicken Little” -  a 2005 American computer-animated science fiction comedy film, produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and loosely based on the "Henny Penny" Anglo-Saxon fairy tale. The 46th Disney animated feature film, it was directed by Mark Dindal from a screenplay by Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, and Ron Anderson, based on a story by Mark Kennedy and Dindal. The film was dedicated to Disney artist and writer Joe Grant, who died before the film's release. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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