Paper & Ink

#GuestPost: Why is Vaccination Necessary? by Harsh Bhatia

Since the explosion of Coronavirus spread all around the world, we have been living in terrifying times. Masks and sanitizers have become a part of our life now and we are not sure for how much longer they will stay with us. From the day WHO declared Covid-19 a Pandemic and Coronavirus started flexing its muscles all around the globe, there has been a need for its cure. While the people have been desperately waiting for a permanent cure, the medical facilities have been working day and night to invent a vaccine that can help people fight this deadly virus.

Modern medical science has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few decades to a stage where doctors can now perform surgeries on patients via robots remotely but finding the cure for a virus is still a whole new ball game. It may surprise you but till date, we do not have any cure for infections caused by viruses. Even the common cold which is caused by a virus does not have a cure. The same goes for Coronavirus- finding a cure for it may not be the most feasible option right now. Normally, when we suffer from regular fever, we visit a doctor and are advised to take Paracetamol. We take the medicine thinking that it will help us in fighting the infection but that is not the case. Our body tries to fight the pathogen by itself which increases the temperature of the body; Paracetamol’s work is to block chemical signals which cause pain and regulate the temperature of the body. If we suffer from viral fever, doctors advise us to take antibiotics and Paracetamol. It is a proven fact that antibiotics do not kill viruses; they are only effective against bacterial infections. We think that by taking the medicine, the viral infection will go away but that does not happen either. When our body produces antibodies to fight the viral infection, our immune system becomes a little compromised and we become vulnerable to other infections. The antibiotics are only given to avert any additional bacterial infections which can happen under such circumstances.

The next best thing which can be done to fight a viral infection is to create a vaccine. There is an old quote- Prevention is better than cure. Vaccines work on the same principle. These are substances injected into the human body to fight a particular virus. We all must have taken the Smallpox vaccine in India when we were infants. The reason for that was to get a barrier ready to fight the virus when it is ready to attack if or when we are exposed to it.

Vaccines mimic the natural interaction of an infectious pathogen. A dead or inactivated prototype of the infectious pathogen is injected into the human body and the human body creates antibodies to fight the pathogen by itself and remembers the way to fight the pathogen if the infection occurs in near future. Let’s consider our body as a fort and our immunity as foot soldiers who are present inside the fort to fight an enemy. Assuming that the foot soldiers haven’t seen horses before and are unaware how to fight them, they might end up choosing from the given two options: 1) the enemy attacks with a small army of horses and foot soldiers are able to defend the fort somehow with some casualties or 2) the enemy attacks with a large army and the defence falls apart. In turn, the enemy captures the fort. But if the foot soldiers get a head-start by making them a part of a simulation or mock drill, they will learn how to put up a strong fight. To improve the defences of the fort, they can also deploy archers to fight off the enemy if the wall gets breached in near future. In simple words, a vaccine enables the human body to fight a pathogen much more effectively in case of an infection.

There are two types of vaccines available in India at the moment– Viral Vector Vaccine (Covishield) and Inactivated Vaccine (Covaxin).

Covishield has been co-developed by Astra-Zeneca and Oxford and is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccine is made from a weakened prototype of Common Cold Virus from Chimpanzees. The protein surrounding the common cold virus has been replaced with the one present in the Coronavirus. When the vaccine is injected, our body believes that it is fighting a Coronavirus because of the protein and starts creating antibodies to fight the virus and is able to successfully kill the virus. In the future, if actual Coronavirus infection occurs, the human body does the same thing and tries to fight off Coronavirus. The efficacy rate of Covishield is more than 90%. To learn more about how the efficacy of a vaccine is calculated, a simple google search won’t do any harm.

The other vaccine available in India, Covaxin, has been indigenously developed by Bharat Biotech. The vaccine is made up of an Inactivated prototype of an actual Coronavirus. It behaves like the dead soldier on a horse, a kind of simulation that the foot soldiers can be exposed to. When the vaccine is injected, it does the same thing as Covishield- creates antibodies to fight the virus and kill the virus. The efficacy rate of Covaxin is around 78%.

The raging fear of Coronavirus has propelled the forwarding of Whatsapp and Facebook messages that advocate the potency of home remedies that can help combat Covid-19 infection. Suggestions like drinking hot water or kaadha made with ginger, honey, black pepper can relieve the throat irritation, black pepper can help in building immunity, steam inhalation can kill the virus present in the nasal passage, taking Giloy will improve immunity have been doing rounds and people have taken them quite seriously. Now people think twice before consulting a doctor, for they believe that the Whatsapp University is more reliable than a person who has an expertise in the field!. These remedies are not remedies; they are mere mitigation agents that provide temporary relief. Drinking hot water can give temporary relief if one has developed congestion but it will not help in killing Coronavirus. The same goes for Kaadha as well. It would be lame to think that immunity can be boosted like this. Our natural defenses are built over the years by what we eat and by getting exposed to different environments and pathogens. It cannot be boosted by taking something for a couple of weeks. Likewise, taking steam can soften mucus present in the nasal passage and may make breathing better and nothing more. Fun Fact- Asthma patients are not advised to take steam as it may make their condition worse.

People have started believing that if they don’t have cold and fever, then they do not have Covid-19 infection. This is wrong. Not all people who have cold or fever are infected with Coronavirus – it could be common cold or seasonal flu. Similarly, not all people who have Covid-19 infection suffer from cold or fever. Studies have shown that Coronavirus symptoms have become very diverse. They can range from a light headache to severe infection of lungs and other organs.

These suggestive medications don’t come with any valid facts or evidence or disclaimers. If these were 100% potent, then we would have defeated Coronavirus single handedly just by following our Dadi Maa ke Nuskhe. Following information blindly will only lead to unintended consequences and we will fail, as a community, to achieve anything useful. What is better though is to read, gather knowledge and form an opinion with the help of established facts. If these medications are taken without any prior advice of a doctor, they can have adverse effects too.

Eventually, it is all about taking a sound decision and choosing between living a life that has a reduced risk of getting infected by the Coronavirus or heading towards the doomsday just because of being misinformed. Vaccination doesn’t promise complete protection from Covid-19 yet it helps the body develop and strengthen the fighting mechanism that can be deployed when there is need. Even though there are side effects of vaccination, those side effects are mild and bearable. They also drastically reduce the need for hospitalization.

This information is not complete, for there are several other facts that need to be kept in mind if one has been tested positive and is still to take the vaccination. There should be a minimum waiting period of 2 weeks since the symptoms first appeared but please consult the doctor before taking any vaccination. Hence, it is important to understand the gravity of the situation and stop living in a make-belief world where Indian spices can uphold the defence mechanism of the body and ‘no-vaccination’ can help one lead a fear-free life!

So, stop being an armchair critic, book a slot and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Be safe and well.

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