“I have to wear mask and follow social distancing even after vaccination. Then why should I get vaccinated?”
Well, as has been mentioned earlier, the pandemic will only cease once a large section of the population acquires immunity. Until such time, we need to follow the norms of face mask, social distancing and hand sanitation. The reason to get vaccinated is that it will help you prevent from getting infected and even if one gets the infection (rare instances), it will be a mild disease in all probability.
“There is no assurance on how long will the immunity last following vaccination. Will a booster dose be required?”
Presently, there is no confirmed data regarding the duration for which immunity will last following Covid vaccination. Pfizer has claimed it’s vaccine remains 91% effective after 6 months. But it’s CEO Albert Bourla recently said that a booster shot may be needed between 6 months – 1 year. Apart from the immunity decreasing, this will also depend on emergence of new variants.
“The efficacy rates of various vaccines are different. Pfizer/Moderna is supposed to be very good. I will wait for the best one.”
“Vaccine efficacy” measures a vaccine’s protection against a disease/pathogen in a vaccine trial. If a vaccine has, for example, 70% efficacy, it means a person vaccinated in a clinical trial is around two-thirds less likely to develop the disease than someone in the trial who didn’t get the vaccine. When you give a vaccine outside a clinical trial, we then refer to “vaccine effectiveness”. Compared with efficacy, effectiveness takes into account all the complexities of the real world, outside of a controlled clinical trial setting. So far all the COVID-19 vaccines being used seem to be highly effective in real-world settings.
However, we still need to assess the full consequences for each vaccine’s effectiveness against newly identified variants that cause COVID-19. The data so far shows that all COVID vaccines are better at protecting against severe disease, hospitalization and death which is our aim at present. All leading health regulatory bodies (WHO, Europe, USA) have stated that any vaccine with 50% efficacy is good enough to offer protection in clinical setting. So, do not fret over non-availability of a particular brand of vaccine. Take the one readily available and make yourself safe.
“The vaccines are developed in a haste. We don’t know the long term side effects. I will prefer to wait some more time before I get vaccinated.”
Many of us are skeptical about the long term effects of these Covid-19 vaccines since they are newly developed with no long term data available. But even though these vaccines are new, the technology used in their production has been around for quite some time to help allay our fears.
(1) mRNA vaccine (eg.Pfizer, Moderna)
mRNA vaccines against HIV, rabies, Zika and flu have been tested in phase 1 and phase 2 trials in people. The technology has also been used in clinical trials as a way to treat some cancers. Even though these products have not been licensed for use in people, these efforts provided important information about mRNA technology and its safety.
(2) Adenovirus based vaccine (eg.Astrazeneca, J&J)
This type of vaccine has been studied in people before, and another adenovirus-based vaccine was approved for use in Europe in those 1 year of age and older starting in the summer of 2020. That vaccine is one of two doses of an Ebola vaccine, and it uses the same type of adenovirus as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
(3) Inactivated virus based vaccine (eg.Covaxin)
As mentioned at the beginning, this is a time tested technology of vaccine production. Some other examples of such vaccines which have been safely used over years are the vaccines used against polio, rabies and Hepatitis A.
While concerns about long-term effects of vaccines are legitimate, it is important to be aware that the organized anti-vaccine industry has targeted this issue as a way to sow doubt and confusion about COVID-19 vaccines. In some cases, individuals in these groups do not believe the science, and in other cases, they are seeking to profit from the vaccine hesitancy by encouraging the use of other products to “protect” against COVID-19.
Vaccines – the Endgame for COVID-19?
Israel is presently the world leader in vaccinating its population against COVID-19. As of March 15, 50 percent of Israel’s population had been fully vaccinated, and 60 percent had its first dose. The rate of new infections has plummeted – from a peak of almost 10,000 a day to about 140 and the number of serious coronavirus cases in many hospitals is down to single digits. The same is being observed in the UK and USA, as the percentage of the fully vaccinated population is increasing.
In India, the vaccination drive was initiated on January 16th, 2021, and yet now, in April ’21, we are finding ourselves amidst a raging second wave. Incidentally, in Israel, during the early weeks of the vaccination campaign, the number of cases and hospitalized patients rapidly increased, along with the local emergence of the B1.1.7 variant, leading the government to impose a third lockdown on 8 January 2021 which was gradually eased a month later. UK too had a more or less similar scenario. It started the vaccination drive on December 8th ’20 amidst the second wave, underwent a lockdown and now the curbs are being eased nearly 4 months later after vaccinating a significant chunk of its population. I am not an expert on public health policies, but this does seem to be the best way ahead for us too.
Vaccines will definitely help reduce the infection rates, number of hospitalizations and deaths. But the Governments/Health authorities will have to watch out for the emergence of new variants and change their vaccine policy accordingly. And we, the people, will have to do our bit simultaneously by watching out for fake, unscientific news related to COVID-19 and vaccines. This is one battle where we seem to be in for a long haul (unless there is a miracle/cure), but proactive planning with proper execution, discipline and hope should see us through…