Illustrative vial of coronavirus vaccine

More than 1.66 crore vaccines have been administered in India since January 16 when the nationwide drive – pegged as the world’s largest – first started. Thus, many beneficiaries, especially healthcare and frontline workers have by now received their second shot as part of the two-dose regime.

As of March 4, India had reported more than 1.11 crore confirmed COVID-19 cases. The death toll from the outbreak in the country stood at over 1.57 lakh. While more than 1.08 crore patients had recovered, 1.70 lakh cases remained ‘active’. Globally, more than 11.50 crore individuals have been infected by the virus and over 26.57 lakh people have died so far.
Many regions in India, including the worst-affected state of Maharashtra, are witnessing resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Why speedy and proper immunisation is the key
A speedy rollout of vaccines is being seen as the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19 and restore normalcy in the pandemic-battered global economy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a vaccine work?
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?
There are broadly four types of vaccine – one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

With the vaccination drive now having opened for the general public (currently for those above the age of 60 and over 45 years with comorbidities), the inoculation exercise is picking up pace. On March 2, long queues were seen in Mumbai, Maharashtra and other parts of the country with more people waiting to get vaccinated.
Availability of vaccines may have led to complacency among masses and some people avoiding wearing masks while in public.
According to some experts’ estimates, even an 80 percent drop in transmissibility may be enough for vaccinated people to stop wearing masks. This is especially in areas where a majority of the population has been immunised and the infection rates are falling.

However, it could take several months before a large country like India is able to vaccinate a significant proportion of the population for the herd immunity to kick in.
It is also to be noted that these vaccines are fully effective only when administered in the two-dose regime. Investigators in Scotland found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing infection was 70 percent after the first dose, and 85 percent after the second. Thus, getting the second shot is crucial for the jab to work in the way it is intended to.

While vaccines are likely to prevent you from getting infected by COVID-19, they may not stop you from spreading the novel coronavirus to others who have not been vaccinated.
According to a report by The New York Times, scientists are still unsure if vaccinated people spread the virus to those who are not vaccinated. The research is not clear on exactly how well vaccines stop the coronavirus from sticking to an immunised person’s nose before spreading to others.
Studies are currently on in many parts of the world to find out if vaccination helps curb transmission in a significant manner.

Wearing masks
So, what precautions should people who have been vaccinated take until we have the results of these studies? According to experts, wearing a face mask is the most important measure.
Besides this, those who are vaccinated must continue to maintain physical distancing, frequently wash hands and avoid crowded places.
On January 16, while launching India’s vaccination drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also urged citizens to continue to wear masks and follow other safety protocols.

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