The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, took a shot of Covaxin, the India-made vaccine against the Coronavirus, in the morning of March 1, 2021, at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.
Mr Modi has taken the vaccine at the first available opportunity. Till now, vaccination in the country was available only first to the healthcare workers and thereafter also to frontline workers. However, resistance to vaccination is also rampant in the country and many of those who were eligible for vaccination did not come forward to take it.
Mr Modi's taking the vaccine early in the morning on the very first day is designed to give heart to those who have been resisting taking the vaccine, and will hopefully propel the vaccination programme forward.
The reason behind many people being wary of the vaccine has been the lack of data as to its efficacy and safety. However, as millions of vaccines have been administered to healthcare and frontline workers in the country and the adverse events have been negligible, many of those who were skeptic of the vaccines are now coming forward to take it. The prime minister leading by example will also enthuse these people to go ahead and get vaccinated.
Then, the data from sero surveys in large cities like Delhi and Mumbai has revealed that a very large proportion of the population has had a date with corona and has overcome it. So, many people think that since they have, in all probability, had a brush with corona already, they do not need the vaccine. On the other hand, antibody tests are now being taken by many and they are revealing that many of those who have had confirmed corona in the past have only miniscule antibodies. So, it would be a good idea for even those who have had an encounter with corona to go ahead and have vaccination in the interest of getting robust antibodies.
It is felt that having vaccination amounts to removing the fear factor from the equation and is like an insurance of sorts. If the vaccine provides antibodies to the vaccinated, and then corona comes calling, the patient will have a robust response and will overcome the virus more surely and more swiftly.
On the other hand, the advantages of vaccination are innumerable. Above all, vaccination, rather than the natural spread of coronavirus, is the faster way of developing the desired herd immunity in any community and thus vanquishing the virus. The more people that get vaccinated and develop antibodies, the less will be the path available to the coronavirus to spread.
Yes, it is true that the number of cases of coronavirus are down and the number of fatalities are also far less than what they were not very long ago. The spurt in corona numbers towards the end of February 2021 does not alter the secular downward trend in corona spread. But, at a lower level, coronavirus continues to persist and has not gone away. The threat of infection and death, though far diminished, remains. What is more, given the much slower spread of the virus now, coupled with the fact that a substantial number of susceptible and vulnerable individuals remains, it is clear that the virus will remain with us for quite some time and may take years to run its course. This end of the virus can be achieved quicker if people get vaccinated, thus denying the virus the space it needs to hop from host to host.
There is talk that the vaccines do not have great efficacy. However, even if they have some efficacy, it means that many people would become immune to the virus and thus help break the chain of the virus.
It is to be seen if Prime Minister Modi will enthuse the general population to go ahead and get vaccinated in sufficient numbers to hasten the end of the trauma we have lived for a full year now.