Is It Safe To Take The COVID Vaccine Or Not?
- Dr. Pragnya Rao
- 4 Min Read
As we step into 2021, a year hailed by most to be a redemption version of 2020, our hopes for a better future seem to be taking shape in the form of vaccination drives that have begun across the country. It has been an exhausting year for me too, as well as several other colleagues and frontline workers who have been subjected to a variety of questions- some absurd, some genuine throughout 2020.
With the advent of vaccines and hopefully, the advent of advancement in the way humans understand science, the floodgates have opened for a sea of yet another set of interesting, borderline ridiculous queries. If the most searched term over the past few days on social media has been the name of the Australian cricket captain (read ‘the wrong one’), the counterpart on Google trends is something I could never have guessed- ‘how to make COVID vaccine at home.’
So, answering this albeit ‘burning’ question- is there a way to create a DIY vaccine?
NO. It can be synthesised only in a laboratory, following a complex number of techniques, research studies and clinical trials. Honestly, I brought myself to write this article so I could really answer this, in BOLD. Oddly satisfying, I should say.
A vaccine is a biological preparation, and also a spectacular invention by mankind, in order to help fight deadly and fast-spreading diseases. Vaccines confer acquired immunity upon immunization. This protects an individual from any consequential disease from the pathogen responsible. In this case, Sars-CoV-2 virus is a fast-spreading, frequently mutating one, leading to symptoms & complications of COVID-19.
The other day, my neighbour uncle decided to stop by during his morning jog to ask me about the COVID vaccine with his classic ‘oh-that-is-not-my-unshaved-beard-but-my-mask’ look. He has this uncanny resemblance to my intimidating professor from college, and that is why I’m sometimes reluctant to repeatedly tell him- ‘Uncle, I can hear you through the mask, I recognize you, you do not have to make it your chin-shield.’
He said, ‘Doctor, this COVID vaccine is only 70%-90% efficient it seems? Our COVID-19 deaths are only 2%. The vaccine sounds like a failure. Where is 30% and where is 2%? Better to get the disease itself’.
The one greatest advantage of wearing a mask is that it literally masked more than 95% of the ‘tired-yet-wanting-to-explain-again’ face that I made before I explained vaccine efficacy to him.
Are vaccines 100% effective?
A vaccine’s efficacy is determined by the protection it provides against a disease and its effectiveness, by the role in reducing healthcare burden & reducing further spread of the disease. For example, the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine has a two-dose regimen and has its efficacy pegged at over 70%- which is actually good. Really good.
Covaxin or Covishield- no matter which vaccine is being taken, is safe and essential even, to prevent another harrowing year of a never-ending pandemic. It is important to understand that no vaccine is 100% effective. Yes, you read that right. While some people might not develop protection post-vaccination, and for some, protection may wane off over time, large-scale vaccination can help protect those who are unprotected- people who have immunodeficiency disorders, children, etc since the overall disease spread can be monumentally arrested.
Now coming to safety concerns. Natural immunity cannot be banked upon during a pandemic. Getting vaccinated is definitely better than getting sick from the disease in the case of COVID-19. Various myths such as the infamous ‘vaccines cause autism’ have been debunked before and as scientists, doctors and researchers, you will have people like me continuing to do so.
Vaccines can cause mild side effects. All vaccines do. With regards to COVID vaccine, side effects such as mild fever, sore throat, cough, pain at the injection site are not uncommon. However, allergic reactions as well as severe side effects are absolutely rare. Moreover, the Drug Control General of India would not approve something that could potentially add more burden to the already overloaded health care system.
Unfortunately, however, I wish there was some Control General stationed at the black hole of social media on the internet, including the indigenous Whatsapp University, where collective minds come together to brood and trust the misinformation brigade of fear-invoking messages. Well, we don’t always get what we wish for, do we?
Take the vaccine. It is what we wished for, what we have been waiting for. It is absolutely understandable, and right even, to doubt something, but it is never right to reject it based on mere assumptions and fear. So, what can you do if you are too afraid to get the vaccine? (I know this feels like a very ‘cross my heart and hope not to die’ scenario, but it really isn’t).
Ask questions. To the right people. Doctors, scientists, researchers who have ample experience working with the virus, its disease, its burden and everything.
Find ways to alleviate your fears, but not your quest to beget protection for you and your loved ones. The world may have to grapple with more pandemics in the coming years and we must be prepared to face them with the experience we are gaining today. So, vaccinated or not- continue to wash hands, disinfect your surroundings. Remember, they are more effective in eliminating the spread of COVID-19 than the vaccines even.