A few days back, I got a call from my nephew who went to a vaccination centre for Covid-19. Himself a doctor, he got confused when the doctor overseeing the centre advised him to wait for a better vaccine as the current vaccine may only be 50% effective. I told him to go ahead with the vaccination as even 50% immunity is better than none. Last week, I was vaccinated and the district health officer of Islamabad had tweeted my picture to encourage other healthcare providers to get vaccinated. There is a widespread “vaccine hesitancy” among healthcare providers. There is a lot of misinformation circulating on social media about the futility or dangerous side effects of Covid vaccines. This is an “infodemic” which is equally, if not more dangerous, than the coronavirus pandemic itself according to the World Health Organization.
So where lies the truth in this sea of confusion? First, each vaccine has a different level of effectiveness, but all provide immunity over 50% and some even go beyond 90%. Some vaccines are better for certain age groups or have limited data on other age groups. Some lose their effectiveness more than others against certain mutations. So, should we wait for the best vaccine? Not in a pandemic where the virus is infecting hundreds of thousands and killing tens of thousands on a daily basis. Vaccine supply lines are strained, and governments are rationing whatever they have to their population. The advice by all global health experts is that you should get vaccinated by the first vaccine which is offered to you.
So, what about conspiracy theories? People talk about nanochips which will be inserted inside your body, etc. That is all rubbish as no one really needs to control us by inserting a chip. All of us are anyway tracked through our smartphones and other smart devises so that we could buy more stuff. That is the commercial reason for all the tracking which is already happening. Secondly, the most advanced and new vaccines which are RNA-based are not available in developing countries. They are being used in developed countries so all that talk about Bill Gates changing our DNA seems redundant. The vaccines which are being used in our part of the world are mostly Chinese. They are based on a method which is a 100-year-old and many of our childhood vaccines are based on this system.
What are the dangerous side effects? People refer to videos of a nurse who collapsed after vaccination and news about deaths after vaccination. All this is far from reality. When I got vaccinated, I got a severe headache after 48 hours. I had to take medication for this and my body felt extremely weak but I completely recovered in around 12 hours. That is a side effect most of you will get as after nearly 250 million vaccines administered globally, very few serious side effects have been reported. Common side effects also include pain at the injection site, swollen lymph nodes or fever. Severe allergic reactions are around 11 per million doses. That is why you are asked to wait for 15 minutes after vaccination. This low level of side effects is an exceptionally good sign, that though very new, these vaccines are showing a high level of safety.
As this is a new disease and vaccines, we still do not know how long the protection will last. Only with time we will know the duration of their protection. Then why should we get vaccinated now as new variants may make these vaccines less effective? Should not we be wise and wait for the next vaccine? No, because even 50% protection from the virus is better than none.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2021.