Described as a ‘shot in the arm for the entire nation’ by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, United Kingdom on December 8 started a mass vaccination programme with a 90-year-old Margaret Keenan becoming the first to get the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. Given the statements by top administrators, it won’t be long before such a drive kick starts in Jammu and Kashmir. Seen as a panacea, the success of the vaccine drive will actually define how the future pans out. In this context, it is important to understand that to cure any disease either or both of two important perspectives—knowledge and wisdom—are important. In medicine, they complement and supplement each other in a manner that is not often seen in any other field. The knowledge makes the treatments easy and predictable. However, unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed this handicap in a more lethal way. The availability of the vaccine has surely ignited hope and this scenario needs to see the vaccines in more light. The sooner a vaccine is available, the better it is for everyone. However, pushing through an ineffective or unsafe vaccine is worse than not having one. This aspect needed to be looked at by the central regularity. There is also a need to create awareness as misinformation could erode trust.
Currently, there are around 250 vaccines under various stages of development/evaluation with at least three of them— the Moderna, the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer—ready to be administered but awaiting regulatory clearances in almost all countries. While Britain has started Pfizer vaccine for use, the company has sought the Indian regulator’s nod for emergency-use authorisation for its mRNA vial.
For Covid-19, a break in the transmission is more important than the momentary immunity which these vaccines are supposed to provide. Also how many doses will be needed for acquiring immunity is still not clear. Also, for how long does the immunity last after vaccination is still in the realm of foggy knowledge, especially when many patients’ post-COVID infection failed to show any antibodies against the virus.
Lack of transparency about vaccine safety and efficacy does no good in gaining people’s confidence and willingness to get vaccinated.
The gains from vaccine campaigns like that of polio are well documented. Every single individual is susceptible to misinformation. There is a need to listen to experts first before forming opinions. It becomes incumbent on the government to create awareness to dispel any doubts to ensure the success of the vaccine.