‘Vaccine is just like any other medicine’ - Eastern Mirror
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‘Vaccine is just like any other medicine’

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Jun 13, 2021 8:51 pm
A beneficiary receiving the Covid jab at a health centre.

Our Reporter
Dimapur, June 13 (EMN):
The Covid-19 vaccine has been in the spotlight for all the good and bad reasons. Many people are hesitant to take the vaccine due to varied reasons ranging from fear of side effects, doubts on efficacy to other personal beliefs based on culture and religion, shared Dr. Apong Longchar, child specialist at Nikos Hospital and Research Centre.

‘Vaccine is also just like any other medicine but a very powerful one in terms of its impact on the health of millions. But since it is a preventive medicine, the impact is not visible to many,’ the doctor said.

In an attempt to dispel rumours and fears among the people with regard to Covid vaccine, Longchar shared with Eastern Mirror on the immune system in general , Covid-19 vaccine in particular and on the basic science of how our body responds to an infection and how immunity develops, which would lead to a better understanding of how a vaccine works.

Our immune system, he said, makes specific antibodies against a vaccine.

‘Immune reaction to vaccines is very much less than reaction to real infection. Real infection may cause serious illness and death but vaccines will not.

‘When body reacts to vaccines, we get side effects like fever, body weakness, fatigue, breathlessness which may be there for a day or many but such reactions are normal. So we should not panic with such reactions as it is a good sign and indicates that our immune system is making antibodies,’ he shared.

Vaccines go through different stages of trials where their safety and efficacy are tested and unless it passes such trials, the government will never approve it for public use, Longchar pointed out.

Longchar said that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Medicine Agency, the risk of severe side effects is very low and the risk of a thromboembolic event is about 1 in 20 lakh. Risk of dying after Covid infection is 1 in 100 so the concern and fear of adverse reaction after the vaccine should be balanced by an understanding of data backed risk and benefits, he said.

‘Why there are different results for the same germs on people have a lot of factors and the outcome depends on the strength of a person’s immune system.  There are two ways to prepare our body for antibody –one way to get antibody is by recovery after getting injection which also prepares our body for future infection and the other way is by taking a vaccine as our body prepares our immune system for antibodies, which protects us from infection.

Natural infection can cause severe diseases and death but vaccines cause mild reactions and give immunity which prepares our body against infection in future, he said. According to the specialist, when there are many people who have become immune, the infection has nowhere to spread and so the pandemic stops.

“When several people’s immune system is strong the Covid-19 stops there and when our body develops antibodies our body is prepared against the germs which prevents the germs from spreading, it is called herd immunity. Herd immunity is when many people develop immunity against germs and infection cannot spread anymore”, he elucidated. 

According to the scientist, about 70% of the population of a country need to be immune for herd immunity and to stop the pandemic. ‘So to prepare our body for antibody/herd immunity and to achieve them, we can either achieve it by letting infection spread or by vaccination,’ he said.

Longchar pointed out that Nagaland’s population was about 20 lakh and if we have to count 70% of the population, it comes to around 14 lakh.

‘The Covid-19 mortality rate is about 1.17% which comes to about 15-16,000 of the population. This projection is as per the trend and data,’ he clarified.

“Reaching herd immunity through spread of infection will be a big disaster. So before the infection if we increase the herd immunity through vaccination, we can stop the pandemic,” he opined.

Efficacy of different vaccines

In India, there are three vaccines available — Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V — and there are questions raised on the quality of the vaccine because as per publication, the efficacy of Covishield is 70%, Covaxin is 80% and Sputnik V is 90%.

However, he pointed out that we should not consider only the efficacy of the vaccine because vaccine trials have been conducted in different countries at different times in different populations. The results may be similar if the trials of all vaccines are done at the same time and place, he said.

“Main purpose of the vaccine was not to prevent 100% infection but to prevent serious disease and death. In trials all vaccines are 100% effective in preventing severe disease and death. In trials, thousands are tested but after trials, crores will be vaccinated. The trials result may not match 100% with real world scenarios so we may see Covid positive or death in few after full two dose vaccine. If we look at the figure, the vaccine has controlled the spread of infection and death figures so we should take the vaccine which is available”, he asserted.

How was Covid-19 vaccine developed so fast?

People have raised questions on how a vaccine was developed within a year when other vaccines took years to develop. There were also questions raised if there was some compromise during trials. Clarifying the doubt, the specialist noted that Covid-19 pandemic affected everyone in every country so the scientists and researchers working at the same time in different countries shared their knowledge.

Why intervals between first and second dose of Covishield keep changing?

The Coveshield dose gap was increased from four-six weeks to eight weeks and now to 12 weeks.

 “We have heard of clinical trial stage 1, 2 and 3 after which the government after observation gives the green signal to the public. Stage-4 is ongoing assessment and review of a medicine after starting use in the public and to assess if the medicine is performing as per trial and if there are any new developments. Covid vaccines are also in that stage-4 phase so in the last few months, new findings are seen and according to that, dose intervals are changed for better results.  So we should not worry as the vaccine is safe and working,” he informed.

Who should not take Covid vaccine?

Pregnant women, those suffering from Covid-19 and those who have been hospitalised with other diseases should not take the vaccine.

If there are severe reactions to the first dose of Covid vaccine excluding the common body reactions, they should not take the second dose, he advised.

 Those with known allergies to food and medicine or other vaccines should take it after consultation with a doctor. But there is very little chance that the vaccine contains the same food or medicine to which the person is allergic to, he added.

A person who has recovered from Covid can take the vaccine only after three months while breastfeeding mothers can also take the vaccine.

He added that those who get Covid infection after the first dose should take the second dose three months after recovery.  Dispelling doubts on vaccination for comorbid patients, he said those with comorbidities would benefit the most from vaccines as they are at high risk from serious illness and death from Covid.

“But no person should be forced to be vaccinated. The specialist underlined that having the right knowledge and understanding of a situation was the best way to make an informed decision and help to end this pandemic,” he advised.

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Jun 13, 2021 8:51:40 pm