Kavya NarayananJan 29, 2021 17:25:03 IST
As of 29 January 2021, over 28 lakh healthcare workers in India have received a vaccination as part of the national COVID-19 vaccination drive. The vaccination campaign isn’t yet open to the general population. But as more people are invited to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, many questions are being raised about vaccination, and the usefulness of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield – the vaccines approved for emergency-use in India – in preventing COVID-19 disease in those who have been immunised.
At the population level, vaccines lower the number of new cases of COVID-19 disease in the population. At the individual level, vaccines are engineered to defend the immunised person against COVID-19 disease. These objectives can be attained so long as the vaccines work for everyone, which isn’t a guarantee, even for tried-and-tested vaccines. So, are we better off taking precautions than the vaccine?
‘If I take adequate precautions, I don’t need the vaccine’
Since the general population isn’t yet being vaccinated, all the precautions advised to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection – physical distancing, hand hygiene and masks – need to be continued, experts said. Moreover, being vaccinated does not mean you can’t be infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“There is no evidence to show that those who get the vaccine can’t transmit the virus to others…because the vaccine has been tested [for the immunity if offers] against the COVID-19 disease, not against SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Dr Shahid Jameel, CEO of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance and Director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University. “Even if you are vaccinated, you could be infected and not have COVID-19 disease.”
Whether during or after vaccinations, experts advise taking precautions including physical distancing, hand hygiene and masks in public spaces, among others. Another strong motivating factor to be cautious even after vaccination is the fact that the virus is known to be airborne.
“We have known that the virus can be airborne for a few months now. You may still come in contact with people who are shedding the virus without knowing it,” said Dr Om Srivastava, director of infectious diseases at Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai.
“The mask definitely helps, but the vaccine is going to boost your immune response to COVID-19, and possibly even other infections. So yes, it is highly advisable to take the vaccine.”