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‘Infodemic on side effects has created anxiety’: Dr. Randeep Guleria

"To be honest, early on, health care workers were very keen to get the vaccine. Then, because of the infodemic, because of the things doing the rounds on social media, because of the side effects being highlighted as more than what they were, it created a lot of anxiety", says Dr. Randeep Guleria
By Anonna Dutt, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 03:59 AM IST
"We will need as many vaccine shots as we can get because the number of people we need to vaccinate is humongous." says director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences Dr Randeep Guleria

An infodemic (overabundance of information, some of which is aimed at deliberately pushing false information to erode the credibility of public health responses) and the barrage of social media posts on adverse events after vaccination has resulted in an increase in vaccine hesitancy, director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Dr Randeep Guleria told Anonna Dutt in an interview. Edited excerpts

What is the reason for vaccine hesitancy among health care workers?

To be honest, early on, health care workers were very keen to get the vaccine. Then, because of the infodemic, because of the things doing the rounds on social media, because of the side effects being highlighted as more than what they were, it created a lot of anxiety — not only among health care workers but also the public at large. And, therefore, a lot of people have had to work on reassuring others that there have been no short cuts (in vaccine trials and approval). The vaccine has come within a year, but that does not mean that there has been a compromise on safety. That (convincing people) is something we are still working on.

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Some doctors from one of the Delhi hospitals raised concerns about one of the vaccines — Covaxin — being given without completing the trials.

We will need as many vaccine shots as we can get because the number of people we need to vaccinate is humongous. We need to get more and more manufacturers on board; we need to get more and more vaccine platforms on board. We may keep arguing about which one is good, but at the end of the day, any vaccine that is safe and provides efficacy will help in saving lives and bringing down mortality.

In the second half of this year, we may get new generation of vaccines — vaccines that may need only one shot, vaccines that may be in the form of a nasal spray. Those things are evolving over a period of time. Therefore, currently we should push what we have because it will really help in saving lives, breaking the chain of transmission, getting our economy back on track, allowing schools and colleges to open up, and people to go on holidays.

What were the lessons that we learnt from Covid-19?

It has been an experience that has told us that we need to be better prepared for the future. We need to have our infrastructure and plans to be in place so that we do not have such a situation in the coming years.

This is the final phase of our fight against Covid-19. The past 10 to 14 months have been a roller-coaster ride. Looking back, there is satisfaction that we managed without going into a chaotic situation, with people running out of beds and oxygen that we hear from some other countries.

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