Relatively speaking, the number of people reporting side effects is a fraction of the total immunised (REUTERS)
Relatively speaking, the number of people reporting side effects is a fraction of the total immunised (REUTERS)

Have faith in the vaccines | HT Editorial

India began its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on Saturday
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:18 AM IST

India began its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on Saturday. While the stated target to give the first dose of the vaccine to 300,000 people on the first day was not met, 207,229 individuals did get it — making it the single-largest tally on the first day by any country in the world. This is an achievement by any measure, especially given that less than a year has passed since the disease emerged on to global consciousness without having any cure. The government, private manufacturers, and citizens deserve praise. Reports have now indicated that 447 individuals reported adverse events after the immunisation, while three people — .0014% of those vaccinated — have reported significant adverse effects (fever, headache and nausea). All three were hospitalised, but two have been discharged. There is, naturally, a degree of concern about the vaccines (the decision to clear Covaxin for use without its efficacy data did not help). This is reflected in the turnout at the vaccination centres. For instance, in Delhi, only 53% of the 8,117 registered health workers scheduled for immunisation turned up. Reports about side effects may have the impact of inducing more concern.

What is important to note is that any medication or vaccine can have side effects. But both vaccines in use have gone through due scientific process regarding safety. And one has gone through the mandatory Phase 3 trials to prove its efficacy. Relatively speaking, the number of people reporting side effects is a fraction of the total immunised. The government must continue to reach out to citizens, explain the science behind the vaccines, remain entirely transparent — including about adverse effects, preferably tabulated by vaccine -- and stay the course with the vaccination drive.

There is an equal responsibility on citizens. They must avoid panic and instead have faith that the vaccination process will deliver, for an overwhelming majority, respite from the threat of Covid-19. This is not blind faith, but conviction based on science. Citizens must ask questions, report symptoms, and alert authorities to side effects. But remember Covid-19 was a new disease, its course has been unpredictable, and the vaccines are the best bet to beat the disease. Citizens must be patient, and get vaccinated, when their turn comes.

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