‘Covid vaccine: Ample shots but few takers’

While nations around the world are dying and crying to secure adequate inoculations to vaccinate their populations, India has rolled out one of the world’s biggest inoculation programs. However, people here are not willing to take the vaccine because of the safety concerns. The government is struggling to convince people regarding safety of the vaccines. According to the reports, as on 25th January, only about 56% of people eligible to get the shot have stepped forward in a nation with the world’s second-worst Covid-19 outbreak. However, India reported 12,689 new cases in the last 24 hours according to the health ministry’s data as on 27th January. Dr Rahul Sharma, Director and Head, Department of Pulmonary & Critical Care, Le Crest Hospital, Ghaziabad, tells Madiha Raza that a lot of myths are being circulated about the vaccination in the public via social media. “Therefore, people are hesitating to take the vaccine. Every vaccine has some minor side-effects, but no major threat have been recorded so far after the Covid jabs,” he adds.

Edited Excerpts from an interview •

India has plenty of Coronavirus vaccines but few takers. Why is it so?

India has plenty of vaccines that can be given to everyone. It is not like there is a lot of vaccine and very fewer takers.  Everyone is dying and crying for the vaccine, there are developing countries who are looking up to India to get the vaccine. We have ample amount of vaccination and undoubtedly India is the only country who has approved two serums at a time for the benefit of the patients.

Lot of myths and doubts related to Covid-19 vaccination are being circulated. What’s your view on it?

There are a lot of myths regarding vaccination in the public due to social media. We must understand that vaccine is the only way forward by which we can prevent and protect from infection of Coronavirus. We have already seen that it has created so much loss of life, morbidity, mortality, loss of business throughout the world. So, there is no question why we should not take the vaccine. Every vaccine has some minor side- effects, but there is no major threat although. Many deaths are reported in various parts of the world till now. However, investigations are in a row and no death is directly being co-related with vaccination. It is just part and parcel that if you give such a large group of people so many vaccines then natural death can happen in that sub-group of patients. So, it should not be correlated with the vaccination process.

A recent sero-prevalence survey in Delhi has highlighted that more than 50% of those survived have developed antibodies against Covid-19, this indicates the city is moving closer to achieving herd immunity. Is it true?

Herd immunity is achieved only when the population has 80% of the antibodies or immunity to a particular infection. But the antibodies that we are getting, after Coronavirus infections are not long-lasting. The research has already confirmed that these antibodies can vanish within a week. You need to have something which generates your immune system to create such kind of immunity in your body. Although, vaccines are made in such a way that it creates memory cells and immunity in your body which last longer than the natural immunity that we are receiving from Coronavirus infection.

Explain the most common side-effects from the vaccination and how severe they can be?

As far as the side-effects of the vaccination concerned, every vaccine has a side-effect. There may be minor side-effects in the people getting vaccinated. For instance, most common side-effects seen in most of the people including fever for one or two days, having chills, headache, body ache and vomiting in some cases. These side-effects are not necessarily harmful. Often might be an indication of creating immunogenicity in the body and might be helpful for the development of the immunity. As far there are no severe side-effects. Nevertheless, there is always a chance of 0.1% of receiving any kind of serious reaction or anaphylaxis that can be seen as soon as getting vaccinated. To treat such reactions, the government has recommended 30 minutes of observation to the people who are vaccinated. Also, certain helpline numbers are also there for the people to treat such reactions that are developing at home. 

How effective theses vaccines are for UK variant and circulating strains of SARS COV-2 in India?

Enough research is conducted for the new strain of Coronavirus that has been reported in the United Kingdom, studies have revealed that the virus is transforming but these vaccines have the potential to control the mutant the strain of the virus. So, till now whatever research has done it showed that these vaccines are effective for UK strain of SARS COV-2.

How safe these vaccines are for pulmonary, heart and diabetic patients?

People who are suffering from any kind of underline cardiac, heart and pulmonary disease probably these are the best candidates for this vaccination. But research is very limited so far, so vaccines are not being given to such population because it is in the rolled-out phrase and first priority is health care workers, then the policemen and then the high-risk population including older people. We can say these vaccines are effective because vaccines like pneumonia and H1N1 are recommended for the people who have any kind of cardiac, heart and lungs disease. So, I believe that these vaccines are also effective and helpful in these patients.  We are not giving these vaccines to these patients because it is a rolled-out phase and when it comes to a senior citizen or the high-risk population probably that time, it will be decided that how to give these vaccines and how to monitor these patients.

Post-vaccination deaths of elderly patients in Norway raised concern over the vaccine. What’s your take on this?

There are deaths reported in Norway post vaccination but still they have not claimed that it is directly related to the vaccination. The cause has not been clear but it is not directly co-related to the vaccines because vaccines have undergone in phase1, phase2 and phase3 trial where no such complications arise. These vaccines are being approved by Indian government authorities after the understanding and the safety profile of the patient. The government authorities monitor the side effects and will only approve if vaccination would to be beneficial. All these vaccinations are important for the management and prevention of the Covid-19 infection.