It may be a shock for most of the world but not for all. Many in the healthcare sector and a few outside of it had predicted that the world may face a pandemic sometime in the future. Almost everyone agreed that a health disaster was more likely than say a world war.
After SARs (2002) and then MERs (2012), it had become quite evident that the world was susceptible to and could quite likely face a pandemic. In 2018, the Harvard Global Health Institute even held a pandemic week. Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates had spoken about an upcoming pandemic at his TedTalk in 2015. However, at the same time, the gravity or severeness had not been predicted and the details of the virus were unknown. The world was caught off-guard.
As the reopening of school gets nearer, how do we avoid masses or even any of us landing up in the Landour community hospital? Mid January, the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine (Covishield and Covaxin) started in India. Even before the vaccines became available, a debate started in many circles on whether the vaccines were safe and whether they would be effective. In India, to begin with, even frontline health workers, doctors, and nurses were hesitant to take the shot.
However, as the debate of whether people should take it or not rages on, expert opinion and healthcare specialists are beginning to strongly recommend it. The discussion in fact has moved on to the question: what happens if we don’t take it?
There have been many predictions, data, statistics, and numbers floated about how effective the vaccine is. But here is the truth – if you take both doses of the vaccine, you may fall mildly ill if infected with the virus but are less likely to fall severely ill or die of it. Dr. Mehul Mehta, a physician, healthcare expert, and currently chief medical officer of Albright Stonebridge in Boston is in support of vaccine development for COVID and argues that someone who has taken both doses is almost 100 percent unlikely to die of SARS-COVID2.
However, even if the pandemic goes away, the virus shall remain and the chances of someone who does not have antibodies and who has not been vaccinated contracting the virus remain high. The virus will not disappear overnight even if everyone gets vaccinated. Therefore it makes sense for everyone to take the vaccine. If one can convert a possible serious illness to a minor viral like situation, why not do it? Also, the more people who get vaccinated, the less likely is the virus likely to be transmitted and it may in a due course die a natural death so to speak.
Another worry many people have is that what if they have an allergic reaction to the vaccine as has happened with some? Since it is something new and alien, people fear the unknown. But experts argue that many people take daily medications without even looking at what possible reactions they may have to it. A careful look would reveal many possible adverse reactions!
So far, India has been reasonably fortunate as far as the virus goes. Till September, both cases and deaths were rising and then they started falling. A second spike was expected in
December- which didn’t happen. Experts attribute this to a number of reasons: a younger population, a stronger collective immune system (since pathogens and viruses are so common in India, almost a way of life), the fact that many in India have had the BCG vaccine and the fact that the Indian public has followed the government orders of trying to maintain social distance and using masks.
But experts also point out that one can’t expect the vaccine to protect against death. People will still die of natural causes and the vaccine is not protection against all diseases or death. It won’t make you live forever, no matter how many doses you take!
The good news is that according to Indiaspend, the country has managed to vaccinate 8.4 million people in one month and aims to hit its target of 250 million by July. One way or another, we are moving forward and you need to join the bandwagon. So if someone asks whether you should or shouldn’t get the jab, the answer is simple: if you want to beat the virus and not land up at LCH, your answer should be yes.
Ira Ahuja is the managing editor of The Woodstocker
Edited by Riya Gupta