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Friday, April 23, 2021

PGI holds open house to address questions on vaccine: ‘New strains more transmissible; inoculation a weapon’

Doctors from different departments, all closely involved in the fight against COVID-19 since the last one year, addressed common apprehensions, questions and concerns with scientific evidence and logic.

Written by Parul | Chandigarh |
February 25, 2021 8:45:58 am
Surge in COVID-19 vaccinationThe vaccination of Health Care Workers (HCWs) crossed 73 per cent rate for the first dose which is being pegged as an achievement for the department (Express File)

THE Bhargava Auditorium at PGIMER on Wednesday was the centre of action, with as many as 400 healthcare workers of the institute from various departments becoming part of a valuable and intensive Open House, an effort to dispel hesitancy and misconceptions among healthcare workers and give the vaccination drive a much-needed impetus.

Prof Jagat Ram, director, PGIMER, stated, “With the cases again surging in some states, including Punjab, an overall downward trend in the country does not necessarily guarantee a continued and consistent decline in cases. Also, the new strain of the virus observed in India being far more transmissible, there is no room for any lackadaisical approach.

“This clearly indicates that the COVID-19 is very much here and has not ‘gone away’ as is generally being presumed. So, the threat of getting ‘infected’ is very much real even now considering the ‘vulnerability’ of the healthcare workers due to the exposure,” said the director, stressing the urgency for healthcare workers to go ahead with the vaccination.

Doctors from different departments, all closely involved in the fight against COVID-19 since the last one year, addressed common apprehensions, questions and concerns with scientific evidence and logic.

“The vaccine is my baby. We have done extensive Phase 2 and 3 trials of the Covishield vaccine here in PGIMER and there is no doubt about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, with the trials also done on people with diabetes and hypertension, with no adverse effects reported. Right now, we are not giving the vaccines to children and breastfeeding mothers, but people with co-morbidities, asthma, on medicines can opt for the vaccine, with the consultation of the doctors, who are present at the sites to counsel and address any questions,” said Prof Madhu Gupta, the principal investigator of the trials here.

Prof Sanjay Verma, sharing his insights, talked about how it is important to remember that COVID-19 is still part of our lives, and we need to protect ourselves and others. Clearing a misconception that the vaccine may cause COVID-19, Prof Verma said that both the Indian vaccines are viral vector vaccines, which means it uses a different or modified virus as a vector that instructs our cells to make a SARS-Cov-2 antigen called the spike protein.

“As we have not introduced the virus in the body, you cannot get COVID-19. The Phase 3 trials in the UK and USA. conducted on 12 to 15,000 people, have clearly shown that those who received the vaccine had more than 75 per cent less chances of Covid-19 infection. As for the immune response, the disease is only a year old, but the SARS data showed an antibody response of two years, so if there is no major change in the virus, the vaccine will protect us for longer than six to nine months. The immunogenicity trials data will be with us in a month, for us to know better. In many pockets, no immunity has developed, so the infection can affect anyone. At one stage we were waiting eagerly for the vaccine, and now that we have it, we must opt for it and prevent the spread.”

Dr Pankaj Malhotra said that out of over 4,000 healthcare workers inoculated so far at the PGIMER, only two became positive and these two are the ones who were already in the incubation period.

“We need to set an example for others. When Covid was at its peak, as many as 1,500 healthcare workers from the PGI family were infected. Since January 16, when the vaccination drive began, only one or two people are now positive daily, as compared to 8 to 10 that were reported earlier. If you are vaccinated, you and your family will be better protected, you can travel, go out with, of course, a mask. The side effects have been negligible, only a few have reported fever, anxiety and pain. We are at a high-risk, so we must come forward and like earlier we were apprehensive about wearing a helmet, and now know its benefits. We must look at the long-term advantages of the vaccine,” Dr Malhotra said.

Addressing a query if people who have already been infected with COVID-19 should go for the vaccine, the doctors said that the antibody level goes down after a few weeks, so a vaccine is important, for after vaccination the immune response may be better than natural immunity. “PGI must set a standard for the rest of the country. We must trust science and not believe in any rumours,” summed up Prof Vipin Koushal, Additional Medical Superintendent.

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