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Tuesday, March 09, 2021

COVID-19 vaccine and immunity: A doctor explains the connection

Certain concerns about vaccine safety relate to how they interact with the immune system, or even how the immune system functions in different situations

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |
February 11, 2021 10:00:19 am
COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine and natural immunity, immunity versus vaccine, health, indian express newsVaccines, like natural infections, induce long-term immunity. (Representational image/Pixabay)

Everyone wants to strengthen their immune system so that they can ward off diseases, or fight them, effectively. In the ongoing pandemic, the one question that many people have asked is about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, and if one actually needs it. Dr Sandeep Patil, chief intensivist at Fortis Hospital Kalyan, explains the process of vaccine-induced immunity and says that vaccination has become a “critical addition” to our defenses against COVID-19.

“This much is certain. But our ability to achieve vaccination-induced herd immunity is still unknown. That shouldn’t stop us from trying. It also shouldn’t stop us from practising and promoting safety guidelines that can actually curb the spread of the disease,” he tells indianexpress.com.

“If COVID-19 is a raging forest fire, then vaccines are the firefighters trying to quell it. We have to continue with the preventive measures — social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and rapid testing.”

Dr Patil further states that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, 65 to 70 per cent of a given population must be vaccinated to halt the spread of disease. “Once that threshold is crossed, the COVID-19 virus will have too few human hosts to choose from, driving down transmission rates dramatically. The process of getting there is simple theory, but laborious and time-consuming in practice.”

Vaccine safety and immunity

The doctor points out that certain concerns about vaccine safety relate to how vaccines interact with the immune system, or even how the immune system functions in different situations. “For example, natural infection versus immunisation. While it is fair to consider these concerns, it is important to understand them in the context of how the immune system works. It is true that natural infection causes better immunity than vaccines. The difference, however, between vaccination and natural infection is the price paid for immunity. Are we willing to wait that long for more people to get infected or more lives to be lost? Or do we need to find for proactive solutions?

“Vaccines, like natural infections, induce long-term immunity. And moreover, the vaccine candidates that have received approval from regulatory authorities are efficacious and safe. Speak with your doctor if you have more doubts,” Dr Patil concludes.

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