New Delhi: The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), one of the apex trade associations of India successfully organized a webinar as part of its ‘Illness to Wellness’ series themed “Myths and Facts of Coronavirus Vaccination”.
The webinar saw participation of renowned Virologists, Pediatricians, Neurologists, Pulmonologists, and diabetologists hold an enlightening, educative and informative dialogues on myths and realities of Coronavirus vaccination.
Supported by top hygiene brand SAVLON, the program which promotes healthy living with a focus on wellness and preventive health through healthy habits, diet, exercise, and holistic health saw the veteran speakers discuss at length about the efficacy and safety of Coronavirus medicine and vaccination.
Renowned experts who shared their valuable comments included – Prof. (Dr.) T. Jacob John, Virologist and Pediatrics, Former Professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore; Dr. G. C. Khilnani, Ex Head & Professor of Department of Pulmonary Medicine & Sleep Disorders, AIIMS New Delhi, Chairman, PSRI Institute of Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep medicine; Prof. Rajinder K Dhamija, Head of Neurology Department, Lady Harding Medical College and SSK Hospital, New Delhi; Mr. Anil Rajput, Chairperson, ASSOCHAM CSR Council and Dr. Rajesh Kesari, Founder and Director, Total Care Control who also moderated the ASSOCHAM webinar.
Prof. (Dr.) John opined that “Our immune system has the capacity to detect any virus, even the never-seen-before COVID-19 and mount a response – antibodies and T-cell immunity. Immunity takes time to become effective to stop virus spread and multiplication. However, immune system has memory, which will kick in when the virus infects again – now the response time is very short”. Vaccines mimic this sequence, but without causing disease. Immune system selects key components of the virus for effective response, and scientists create them in the lab and use as “antigens” – the spike proteins are the common antigen in all COVID vaccines. Alternatively, if virus is grown but killed chemically, the antigens are preserved, and you have a vaccine. The mutant variants from UK and South Africa may not fit perfectly with the antibodies made in response to the non-mutant antigen. Immunity will be effective, but the protection may be less; scientists have to match these one by one. A few vaccines tested in the labs are protective against most variants.
The country-epidemics will abate but the virus will remain as ‘endemic’ – low frequency of infection, but rather stable. By itself, the virus will not disappear.
The best thing we can do using vaccines, is to eradicate the virus – like we did with smallpox and polio. We must do this before new mutants escape from vaccine immunity and domestic/farmed/wild animals get infected and become a new reservoir. India can lead the way; WHO can create global solidarity for this goal
Sharing his views, Dr. Khilnani said, “India has had more than one crore cases of COVID-19 and more than one and a half lakh deaths. While we have seen major decline in number of cases, Western world is having surge of cases. We are quite away from attaining Herd immunity. Vaccines have protected mankind – eradication of smallpox and polio are burning examples. The presently available COVID vaccines, namely Covaxin and Covishield are both well tested for safety and efficacy. There is nothing to choose between them. All adults more than 18 years of age (except pregnant and lactating mothers) should take this vaccine. There are lots of myths and misconceptions and concerns on social media regarding safety and efficacy and one should always believe in authentic information. Taking vaccine not only would save yourself but also your family members and other people around you”.
All the panelists unanimously stressed that vaccination against COVID 19 at this trajectory of pandemic is very crucial. As now number of cases is receding in many parts of the country and this is the most appropriate time that now we should immunize most of the people as many as possible at this stage of COVID 19.
Prof. (Dr.) John also outlined the various types of vaccines in their different stage of development and the difference between two existing vaccines in India namely, covaxin and covishield.
Prof. Dhamija while stressing upon the importance of vaccination categorically mentioned that these vaccines are safe and effective and have also undergone rigorous scrutiny by the regulators in India. He also touched upon the vaccine hesitancy as defined by WHO as refusal or delay taking vaccine, in spite of being the vaccination is both affordable and accessible. He stressed on various causes of vaccine hesitancy including the role of social media, misinformation, etc. He argued that vaccine hesitancy has played a major role in different countries and WHO has declared vaccine hesitancy behavior as one of the top 10 public health concern across the globe. He suggested that it is the duty of doctors, public health professionals, civil society, technocrats and organization like ASSOCHAM to come forward and dispel all the myths about the vaccination against the coronavirus. This is the first kind of pandemic in the history of mankind which will be terminated by vaccine
We need to vaccinate about 70 percent of the population to achieve the heard immunity and control this pandemic.
He also said that if you are protected against coronavirus either by natural immunity or immunization you become the dead end for the virus transmission. On the other hand, if you are not protected or immunized you become the facilitator of coronavirus. And so, it is important to get vaccinated not only for yourself but also for your family, friends and society at large. It is important that COVID appropriate behavior must be continued and followed for at least next 12 months as we proceed in 2021.
All the panelists through this ASSOCHAM webinar platform appeal to public to come forward and participate in “jan andolan” or “jan bhagidari” to make this vaccine program of Government of India to be successful to save the lives and to control the pandemic.
In his address, Mr. Rajput pointed out that, the very first month of this year has witnessed multiple vaccinations against the deadly COVID virus. Only a few months ago, this virus was considered as the potent force difficult to counter. These vaccines are the direct sequel of very strong determination of our scientists and doctors to fight back. He further added that owing to the vaccination programs all over the world, the pandemic is all set to become history in the coming months. Till date, this coronavirus has impacted over 97 million people and there have been over 2.1 million deaths.
Mr. Rajput said, the effectiveness and protection that the Covid-19 vaccine provides is at another level. All over the world people have started to receive COVID shots from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sputnik 5 and few allergic shocks have been reported as these isolated cases have been accounting for a miniscule percentage as against those with no or expected side effects. These vaccines have been certified to be safe by WHO, The US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.
Mr. Rajput categorically mentioned, India has its own domestically manufactured vaccines namely Covaxin and the Oxford AstraZeneca called Covishield. India is a world vaccine powerhouse making 60 percent of the world’s vaccine and home to half a dozen major manufacturers. Covaxin was approved by regulators for restricted use in emergency situations in public interest. It has come a long way and has received approval from top medical professionals and regulators for use under normal vaccination process. Dr. Randeep Guleria, an authority and part of the Prime Minister’s panel on COVID, “has termed both the vaccines as absolutely safe. People who have been spreading rumors like these vaccines cause infertility and more complications are doing grave disservice to humankind. They are clearly demotivating others and creating unnecessary hesitation and panic. The only thing one needs to watch out is the list of conditions under which the vaccine should not be administered, and these have been clearly spelt out by the vaccine manufacturers”.
Dr. Kesari, moderated the session and fielded the questions so aptly that eminent panelists and experts have cleared all thick air and myths shrouded around the safety, viability and efficacy of COVID vaccine.