Saturday, May 8, 2021

Misgivings about vaccine

If there is a disease there must be treatment for it. The engine of medical science moves on this basic belief. There were times when some diseases were considered as incurable and a person hit by such a disease was considered as waiting for death. The minute anyone would come to know that the disease has struck, it would sound like a death knell. But as research in medical science grew mankind could find treatment to those diseases, and now a simple vaccine is a permanent defense against many such diseases. This way some of the diseases were almost eradicated, and many were curbed efficiently. The link between medical research and the people at large, who benefit from such research, is the healthcare institution that ensures that the outcome of research finally reaches a common person. It is here that the role of governments world over, particularly the departments that are concerned with community health, becomes crucial. The efficiency with which these departments work finally determines the output. In case of Covid pandemic the initial days were of absolute helplessness, but with time research started showing some forward movement. As the trials for the vaccine were rolled out the hope grew that we were closer to getting a vaccine to immunize the entire population. And then the day came when the vaccine was finally inoculated. With the initial hiccups the pharma giants were allowed to roll out programmes of vaccination. Today we are at a stage when in our part of the world major vaccination drives are in the offing. Here in our state the government has also undertaken massive vaccination programmes. As per reports a good number of people have got the first dose. Unfortunately many are refusing to get vaccinated. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has even admitted that the coverage of vaccination in Nagaland is low, and blamed it on “rumours” for the peoples’ reluctance to get inoculated. State Principal Director of Health & Family Welfare, Dr Kevichusa Medikhru has also stated that because of rumours and false prophecies the general public as well as healthcare workers are not willing to get vaccinated. Covid-19 is a deadly virus. Vaccination against this virus is the only hope that mankind has to eradicate it; hence mass vaccination has started with vigour across the globe. In these challenging times, it is absolutely essential that all are encouraged to seek vaccination in order to prevent the spread of this virus to protect themselves and their communities. And healthcare workers have to take the lead. Their vaccination will provide a good example to the general populace and will encourage them to seek the vaccine, thereby spreading immunity amongst our population and protecting our people from sickness and death. On the contrary, by showing hesitancy to vaccines by health workers, the desire by powers that be to implement mass vaccination drive might dwindle. By expressing hesitancy to take the vaccine, our healthcare workers perhaps are putting their lives at risk, as well as the lives of their patients, their families and their community. We know that there is lot of misinformation being spread, particularly on social media. However, reports show that these conspiracies have been thoroughly debunked by experts and relevant authorities, including the World Health Organization. The vaccines have gone through rigorous trials monitored under strict research regulations in the US and Europe. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are RNA vaccines (utilizing a piece of viral genetic code) and have been shown to be 90% effective in initial phase 3 trials, whereas the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine (an adenovirus vector vaccine) has shown 60-90% efficacy. No untoward side effects were reported in these trials. The Covishield vaccine, used in our state, is a replica of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute Pune and is backed up by strong Oxford data. Hence, there is no reason to believe that this vaccine will not be effective. Clearly at this stage it is important that all the misgivings about the vaccine; that were created in the beginning, should be effectively addressed. To this end the government needs to take up a proactive public awareness campaign so that the programme goes on unhindered. Once people are vaccinated it is possible that life returns to the pre Covid times. Yes, with a caveat; till then, and even afterwards, we will have to observe the minimum safety guidelines.