Dr. Nuzrath Jahan, Assistant Surgeon General,
Directorate of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Govt. of Tamil Nadu
The year that was COVID-19
‘To be vaccinated or not for COVID-19’ requires a recap of what we have gone through and where we stand right now. We are at a significant point in the 15+ months of the COVID-19 journey and the broader picture of biomedical science and technology. Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19), which has been proven to be originated from Wuhan in China, quickly spread to countries around the globe-Initially among countries that were highly connected with China and later among almost all countries with international traffic.
India reported its first case in January 2020 among medical students who had returned to Kerala from China. COVID-19 positive-persons were initially reported among international travelers and their family members. Later, cases became clusters, reported from events and spaces where people gathered in large numbers and stayed/worked together for a more extended period. India saw the most extensive lockdown globally, which affected livelihoods as much as the virus affected lives.
When sharing was not caring
More and more people came to be affected by lockdowns than the virus itself. Those of us who have the privilege of Work-From-Home might have found it comfier to slip into work from bed and keep hustling with household work while staying logged in. But that was not the case with the majority of the population, who suffered the loss of lives and livelihoods. Many of us lost our loved ones to COVID and underwent emotional and mental breakdowns. The mental health of almost all strata of the population suffered damage, and mental health came to be discussed in mainstream big time. The need for vaccination was felt like never before. We looked up to vaccines as the magical cure. Global Politics revolved around the vaccine race, and ironically it was the solution itself that took the collateral damage in the process. Though technology equipped us in finding a solution that otherwise would have taken years, ethical transgressions were dismissed as mere red tape by-passes. The result: lack of trust in science and vaccination and a boon for anti-vaxxers of the Whatsapp university who were opportunistic as they usually are happier than ever to disgrace science.
The Great Indian Race: COVISHIELD Vs COVAXIN
India has approved two vaccines for use in the general public currently- The COVISHIELD and COVAXIN. Though there were fear and lack of trust initially, healthcare workers who took the vaccine shared their experiences on social media, and the people started gravitating towards vaccination sooner. While Covishield is the product of Oxford-AstraZeneca, COVAXIN is an indigenous vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research. While Covishield has completed all stages of vaccine trials, COVAXIN was approved for ‘emergency use’ without completion of 3rd stage. Despite the meaningless injection of nationalism in a scenario of a public health crisis, science continues to remain robust.
Covaxin is a tried and tested technology, as the vaccine is an inactivated vaccine made from the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus. Many vaccines that are in use already use this technology. Alternatively, the COVISHIELD is an antigen vaccine, which is also a known technology. Yet, COVISHIELD contains only a part of the coronavirus. This is a major reason why public health experts prefer COVAXIN to COVISHIELD, as logically, a vaccine that contains the whole virus can be anticipated to be protective against new variants of the virus also.
What to expect?
Mild reactions like body ache, tiredness, and fever are common and are usually expected when one is vaccinated for any disease. Those at increased risk of contracting the virus, and those at increased risk of progressing to severe disease if infected, should ideally take the vaccine. This would be those with medical complications like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, etc. Those with a history of severe allergy can avoid the vaccine. Those pregnant, breastfeeding, and those who anticipate pregnancy in the next 2-3 months can avoid the vaccine as well. The risk of getting a severe reaction or dying from COVID vaccination is much smaller than the risk of dying due to COVID-19 itself.
Say Yes to the vaccine!
Considering the lives and livelihoods that we are putting at risk by refusing the vaccine, it would be a wise and best choice to utilize the opportunity and get the jab at the earliest. I hope you all await ‘to be vaccinated.’
Acknowledgment: Video presented for ‘Neelam Social by the author Dr. Nuzrath Jahan
Love, Team She