As of January 29, 2020, more than 3 million healthcare workers in India have received the first dose of one of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines. If everything goes well, the country will soon begin immunizing the other priority beneficiaries covered under the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Given the significance of the vaccination in ending the pandemic, it is important to bust some of the myths that have come to be associated with the vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccines: Myths and Facts
Myth #1: People who have recovered from COVID-19 don’t need vaccines
Fact: Given the risk of severe illness associated with COVID-19 and the possibility of reinfection, people who have recovered from COVID-19 before should still get vaccinated. Currently, not much is known about the nature and extent of natural immunity acquired from COVID-19 infection. According to some studies, natural infection-acquired immunity is not robust and may not last very long. On the other hand, the immunity generated by the COVID-19 vaccines is likely to be powerful and relatively long-lasting. Therefore, scientists say that people who have recovered from COVID-19 should still be vaccinated.
Myth #2: People with underlying medical conditions shouldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine
Fact: People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. are at a higher risk of severe and life-threatening COVID-19 complications. Therefore, it is important for such people to get vaccinated once COVID-19 vaccines are available to them. However, people with immune disorders and those with a history of allergic reactions should share their medical history with the officials at the vaccination site before getting vaccinated.
Myth #3: Healthy people with good immune function don’t need a COVID-19 vaccine
Fact: It is true that older adults, people with poor immunity, and those with underlying health conditions are at a greater risk of life-threatening COVID-19 complications. However, healthy individuals with a relatively good immune function can still contract COVID-19 and experience severe symptoms. Such people can also spread the virus to others. According to health experts, vaccines will protect everyone from severe and life-threatening COVID-19 complications. Getting a vaccine will also help stop virus transmission and protect vulnerable people in families and communities. Therefore, it is recommended that even healthy adults should get vaccines once it is available to them.
Myth #4: People who have received the COVID-19 vaccines will test positive for the virus
Fact: A COVID-19 diagnostic test involves taking samples from the respiratory system of an individual to check for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. However, none of the approved COVID-19 vaccines contains live strains of the virus. Therefore, the vaccines are unlikely to affect the results of the diagnostic tests. Nevertheless, it is still possible to get infected with the virus before the vaccine has generated full immunity which can take up to 2 weeks after the second dose.
Myth #5: People who have received COVID-19 vaccines can stop wearing masks
Fact: Vaccines can only prevent individuals from developing moderate to severe COVID-19; however, they cannot stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering the body. It is still not known clearly whether vaccinated individuals can carry and transmit the virus or not, even if they don’t get ill themselves. Therefore, it is important for people who have received COVID-19 vaccines to continue to follow precautionary measures like wearing face masks, practicing hand hygiene, and maintaining physical distancing. Public health experts will likely revise the infection prevention guidelines once a sufficient number of people have been immunized.
Countries all over the world are fighting the misinformation campaign targeting COVID-19 vaccines. The fight is likely to continue throughout the pandemic. Till now, India has been fairly successful in dealing with this menace. But the problem will require continuous efforts. More and more facts would need to be disseminated as and when new misinformation starts circulating. We can trust vaccines to do their job. But we will have to do ours too.
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