COVID VACCINATION: SCEPTICISM AND FACTS (AWARENESS DIALOGUE TO MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION)
Covid-19 disrupted lives and economies across the world, starting in early 2020, and the world pinned its hope of overcoming this deadly virus by developing the right vaccine. Now, a year later, we have viable vaccines and are in a position to begin immunisation.
Despite all preparations and achievements, myths and misinformation about Covid-19 stand in the way of the successful execution of the vaccine rollout.
There has been a lot of questions, fear, queries, myths among the people about the COVID vaccine and its side effects. To get you to the right information and facts about the vaccine a webinar was moderated by Namita Singh (Assistant Professor Delhi University, Research, and Programming Director Humanizing Lives) and all the queries were crisply addressed by Dr. Farhan Fazal Consultant – Infectious Disease DM Infectious Disease – AIIMS, New Delhi, HIV Board Certified – American Academy Of HIV Medicine, DNB General Medicine, MD General Medicine, MBBS during the Webinar conducted on January 30th 2021.
The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has formally approved Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin vaccines for restricted emergency use against COVID-19 in India. In the following section, the common queries will be elaborated.
Q) How both the vaccines will work? What is the difference between both the vaccines?
Covaxin is developed by Bharat Biotech and it is India’s first indigenous vaccine against Covid-19.
Bharat Biotech has developed this vaccine in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology.
It is an inactivated vaccine that is developed by inactivating (killing) the live microorganisms that cause the disease.
This destroys the ability of the pathogen to replicate but keeps it intact so that the immune system can still recognise it and produce an immune response.
Covaxin is an “inactivated” vaccine that uses the killed SARS-CoV-2 virus and has no potential to infect or replicate once injected and just serves to uplift an immune response.
Covishield has been developed by Oxford University in collaboration with Astrazeneca.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India is their manufacturing and trial partner.
It uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus.
The vaccine is a “non-replicating viral vector” that is it makes use of another weakened and genetically modified virus. It carries the code to make the spike protein that is the spike on the surface of the virus. It is supposed that the immune system of the body will recognise this protein as a threat and work on building antibodies against it.
The interchangeability of COVID-19 vaccines is not permitted. The second dose should also be of the same COVID-19 vaccine which was administered as the first dose.
Q) What are the common side effects after getting vaccinated?
Mild adverse events following immunisation like headache, fatigue, pain in the muscle, injection site tenderness, weakness, chills, and nausea are among the symptoms that may occur following vaccination. Paracetamol may be given in these adverse reactions.
According to Dr. Fazal it can be viewed as a loss and gain perspective, the loss is attributed to perhaps a day of work, low concentration, and fatigue, and in terms of what you gain is decreased chance of death, severe diseases, and getting infected. The benefits will outweigh the risks. The contracted people despite being recovered have issues with smell, taste, and fatigue. So it is always better to be on the preventive side of the threat. There is no long term side effect of the vaccination expected till now.
Q) Which category of people should be precautious while taking the vaccine?
Pregnant and lactating women should not be administered the shots as they have not been part of any anti-coronavirus vaccine clinical trial so far. Coronavirus vaccination is indicated only for 18 years and above.
People who drink alcohol on regular basis have decreased immune response in general, there is no specific guideline as to not consume alcohol after the vaccination. But to be on the safer side it would be advisable to avoid alcohol during and post two weeks of getting vaccinated as it can hamper the process. Dr. Fazal otherwise also recommends avoiding drinking as it can lead to other chronic diseases.
The concern for severely immunocompromised patients is not the effect but lower efficacy rates after being vaccinated.
These include steroid takers, transplant patients who are in most need of it since they have the chances of getting infected but it would be preferred to observe more trials in this specific population before getting vaccinated.
Indian people are commonly diagnosed with hypertensive, diabetic, and thyroid-related issues the Covishield vaccine has taken the trials under these people and no side effects have been shown so far.
For most people the same mild symptoms after being vaccinated have been observed there is no need to follow any particular diet just healthy home-made food is recommended.
Q) Social media has permeated a lot of skepticism over-vaccination since many doctors and health workers have refused to take it. Is there a voluntary choice available to exercise how shall one approach it?
The element of personal choice is always available but to scientifically consider the facts and staying updated with the process and having the faith in the system is advisable. Many health workers have chosen not to get vaccinated. They should not be excluded however whether vaccinated or not the social distancing and wearing masks should not be avoided.
Q) In the past the history of vaccination is very controversial with respect to Asian and African countries being used as lab rats to get consolidated data (polio vaccines, contraceptives, etc). Is there a chance of using the people as scapegoats?
In terms of using poor countries per say African and South Asian countries being treated as guinea pigs is not true. The affected population isn’t the highest here, Phase 1 and 2 trials are going on quite successfully. To keep at it is essential. Vaccination is something that will be globally researched more and impacting the population. None less than the other. There is no competition but the efficacy would have to be compared and contested upon to get the best quality care for the people.
Q) Will the government free shots will be continued for the marginalized sections since private companies will start with the process soon as well?
The ideal situation is that we all get the vaccines. The health workers are prioritized because they are at the highest risk of getting infected. But gradually it should be delegated towards the masses. Whether it is free or not is something that cannot be predicted yet but hopefully, it should be free for all.
Q) How was Dr. Fazal’s experience with the vaccination process?
Dr. Fazal has been vaccinated post 5 days response has been a quite normal little bit of body ache is the general response. The apprehension has come down a lot. Anaphylaxis was something of a concern post half an hour assessment is carried outpost that a person is out of the danger zone. He is absolutely fine and serving his patients to the best of his abilities.
The most important question that persists is “whether we should get vaccinated since the cases have gone low now?” The public should be aware of the gambling health risks they will be opting for in case they choose not to get vaccinated. The constant fear lurking behind the moment we remove that mask would be eased, your family members would be safe and sound around you and that’s worth a risk-taking. Dr. Fazal shared his valuable insights and we hope it helps you make an informed decision. Stay happy and stay safe!