As COVID-19 cases rise, vaccines play vital role to prevent mass hospitalization, adverse outcomes

Vaccines play a crucial role in preventing infection, hospitalizations, and adverse outcomes which cause deaths

Representational image. AP

Vaccination boosts the human body’s natural immune system, increasing the body’s capacity to protect itself against disease-causing pathogens. When you take the vaccine, you safeguard yourself and those around you. There is a misconception that since the vaccination contains a viral particle or part of it, one may catch the disease. This is not true, the vaccine has either inactivated virus or part of it, natural or synthetic which cannot cause illness.

Vaccines play a crucial role in preventing infection, hospitalizations, and adverse outcomes which cause deaths. Evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are also beneficial in creating herd immunity to protect even unvaccinated individuals if a large proportion of the population is vaccinated. In India, we are mainly using three vaccines. Covishield (Oxford AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured in India by Serum Institute of India), Covaxin (developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited), and Sputnik V (developed by Gamaleya Research Institute, Russia) have been granted authorization for restricted use in emergencies by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.

Covishield was the first vaccine approved by the government for emergency use. Its formula is an attenuated or weakened strain of the chimpanzee cold virus adenovirus. The vaccine has been re-engineered to resemble SARS CoV-2, and it does not cause any harm. The vaccination empowers the human body to develop antibodies against the live virus. Covaxin was officially granted conditional market authorization in January this year by the Drugs Controller General of India. Sputnik V was approved in April last year. Their vaccine uses a virus of the common cold, which is designed as safe. Sputnik V makes use of heterogeneous boosting, which employs two separate vectors for two doses. It produces immunity that lasts longer than other vaccines that use the same delivery method for both shots.

A look at the efficacy of the vaccines, the Covishield initially showed an efficacy rate of 70 per cent during the phase 3 trials, however, after the first and second dose of the vaccine, the efficacy was 90 per cent. The Covaxin vaccine has shown efficacy of 81 per cent. Sputnik V vaccine has 91.6 per cent efficacy. The efficacy of a single dose is 79.4 per cent. A study from the Spallanzani Institute in Italy and the Gamaleya Center in Russia found that the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine produced higher titers of virus-neutralizing antibodies against the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant than the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. It was 2.6 times higher three months after vaccination and 2.1 times higher overall. The study demonstrates that Sputnik V neutralizes the Omicron variant by inducing a robust antibody response associated with high levels of protection. Sputnik V develops a wider pool of antibodies to different parts of the virus in contrast to the Pfizer vaccine, which utilizes only the spike protein, which is affected by mutation in the Omicron variant.

We all should get our booster doses timely and vaccinate the younger kids to combat the virus from further spreading and causing more mutations to develop and attack our bodies. We should all continue to wear masks, and distance ourselves socially apart from getting the booster/vaccine shots, it’s our efforts today that will pave the way for the future.

The author is a former Senior Advisor at UNICEF, and Executive Director at National Health Systems Resource Centre. Views are personal.

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