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Why You Should take COVID Vaccine?
Vaccination prepares and boosts your immune system
If your body is a fort, and your immune system is the moat around this fort, taking a vaccine is like placing alligators in the water in that moat, and doubling the guards at every entry point. Even if the enemy somehow gets past your defenses and manages to enter the fort, you will be alert and prepared to fight it. So, if a vaccine is available, why would you not want it?
As of last week, India has been reporting an average of 1.5 lakh new covid-19 cases daily, and the numbers are not predicted to decrease. With such a surge in the number of people being infected, it is highly likely that you may come in contact with someone who has the COVID-19 infection. The Ro value or the Reproductive value of a disease tells you about how infectious a disease is.
For example, if a disease has a Ro value of 6, it means that one person infected with the disease will end up infecting 6 others. The reported Ro value of COVID-19 was around 1.1 back in November 2020 but is sure to have increased now. Keeping this in mind, there is no other time than like the present to receive the covid vaccine and gain the maximum benefit from it.
Safety and Efficacy of Vaccines
The two major concerns that people have about vaccines are their safety and efficacy.
Vaccine manufacturers claim that covid vaccines are safe. But you have definitely heard of someone who got fever and body ache after their dose or someone who got a stroke or paralysis. Are the official reports of the vaccine being safe a lie? Let us address some of these concerns:
Side effects of Vaccines
Vaccines prevent you from getting the disease, so why do some people get fever or body ache? Isn’t that a bad sign? No, it is not. A vaccine is a foreign substance injected into your body ; it is natural for your immune system to react to it and produce symptoms such as weakness or fever, which are often called the side effects of the vaccine. Fortunately, we have tablets such as paracetamol to counteract these side effects. Unfortunately, we yet do not have a definitive medicine against COVID-19, hence it is safer to take the vaccine.
Hospitalization after taking the Vaccine
Some people have reported the requirement of immediate hospitalization after getting the covid vaccine; doesn’t that mean that the vaccine is dangerous? Vaccine components can cause allergic reactions in some people. However, these are very very rare events.
The components of Covishield are:
- L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate
- Magnesium chloride hexahydrate
- Sodium Chloride
The components of COVAXIN are:
- The whole virion inactivated SARS-CoV-2 antigen
- Aluminium hydroxide gel
- Phosphate Buffer Saline
If you know that you are allergic to any of these vaccine components, besides the virus itself, then you must avoid taking the vaccine.
There are also certain guidelines which should be followed. If you are on medication, if you have a fever, if you are pregnant, etc you must consult your doctor before taking the vaccine.
Vaccine and Blood Clots
Empirical evidence in Europe has shown a link between the Covishield vaccine and the formation of blood clots. Does that mean that the vaccine is not safe? It must be mentioned that no such link has been noticed in India as yet. A study carried out by the European Medicine Agency has concluded that the chances of blood clots occurring are very very rare events, and may occur in 1 in a million cases.
A naturally occurring disease called Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia or HIT on the other hand also causes blood clots and is much more common. The chances of having Blood clotting complications such as Venous Thromboembolism, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism occurring when the person has active COVID-19 infection, are much higher. If after taking the vaccine you are alert and notice the symptoms, the blood clots, just like the other side effects can be treated immediately.
One must also remember that so far other than health workers, the group of people who have been widely vaccinated are senior citizens and people with comorbidities, who already have a higher likelihood of suffering from something like a stroke or paralysis. Hence if stroke/paralysis does occur after vaccination, it must be carefully investigated before attributing it to the virus.
If you are convinced that it is safe to take the covid vaccine, let’s address the next question – its efficacy
Are vaccines with low efficacy worth taking?
Covishield is only 63 % effective and Covaxin is reported to have 81% efficacy. This is still lower than the above 90% efficacy reported for the Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V vaccines that are being distributed in first world countries. Is it beneficial to take vaccines that are not that effective? The WHO recommends that any vaccine that has more than 50 % efficacy will help to control a pandemic.
What is vaccine efficacy?
The efficacy of a vaccine is the likelihood that you would not contract the disease post vaccination. But in addition to preventing you from getting the disease, if you do end up contracting it, the vaccine ensures that the disease won’t be very severe.
Phase 3 trial reports of Covishield/Astrazeneca reported that out of 10,000 people administered with the vaccine, only 108 people developed COVID-19 and only 2 of them required to be hospitalized. On the other hand, out of the 10,000 people who were given the placebo, 227 people developed COVID-19, and 16 of them required hospitalization. In addition 2 people suffered from very serious adverse effects. Even though the efficacy of Covishield may seem low, it prevents you from getting the serious version of the disease. COVAXIN phase 3 trials are ongoing and interim reports have found the efficacy to be around 81%
The Pfizer and Moderna Phase 3 trials were conducted and finished by November 2020, in a period where COVID-19 was not as widespread as it is now. Whether their efficacy is still above 90 % needs to be checked.
Still skeptical about taking the covid vaccine? Let us look at the risks Vs benefits:
Long term health issues:
Even after recovering from COVID-19, you may face symptoms such as fatigue, loss of smell etc for months. Those suffering from the slightly more severe symptoms may take even longer to get back to normal life while those suffering from COVID related pneumonia may have permanent lung damage. On the other hand, the mild fever and body ache from the vaccine may last for a mere day or two.
The event of getting a blood clot from the vaccine is very very rare. On the other hand, blood clots due to Covid-19 infection complications such as Venous Thromboembolism, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism are much more common.
Currently, vaccines are being rolled out at no cost at government centres and Rs 250 at private centres. On the other hand, if you get Covid, you would end up spending much more on blood tests, RT-PCR tests, medicines etc. If you develop severe Covid and require hospitalization, ICU beds can cost anywhere between Rs 5000 to Rs 30000 a day.
|Long Term Health issue||< days||< months, year|
|Blood clot risk||<<<<<< low||High|
|Cost||0 to 250 Rs||Rs 1000 to Rs 1 lakh|
At the end of the day, you have your own free will and no one is going to force you to take the vaccine. But before you make any decisions, you must be well informed. You may have a strong and healthy immune system and so may decide not to take the vaccine. But if you do contract Covid-19, you can still spread it to others who do not have as strong immune systems as yours. By refusing to take the vaccine you may be compromising others. You may end up taking away their right to live.
Ella, R., Vadrevu, K. M., Jogdand, H., Prasad, S., Reddy, S., Sarangi, V., … & Bhargava, B. (2021). Safety and immunogenicity of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, BBV152: a double-blind, randomised, phase 1 trial. The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Voysey, M., Clemens, S. A. C., Madhi, S. A., Weckx, L. Y., Folegatti, P. M., Aley, P. K., … &Bijker, E. (2021). Safety and efficacy of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine (AZD1222) against SARS-CoV-2: an interim analysis of four randomised controlled trials in Brazil, South Africa, and the UK. The Lancet, 397(10269), 99-111.
Mahase, E. (2021). Covid-19: AstraZeneca vaccine is not linked to increased risk of blood clots, finds European Medicine Agency.
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Saunri Dhodi Lobo is pursuing M.Sc in Life Sciences with specialization in Neurobiology. Her interests include writing poetry, going for nature walks and swimming. Currently she is involved in research on Alzheimer’s Disease in fruit flies.
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