‘Vaccines are working, but social vaccine must for six months’

Former director of CSIR Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology Rakesh Mishra  

The devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic appears to be abating, but it does not mean reverting to our normal lifestyles, till a significant section of the population is fully vaccinated and scientists give the clear signal. ‘Social vaccine’ comprising masks, social distancing and hand hygiene should be scrupulously followed for the next six months, asserts former director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) and now adviser Rakesh Mishra in this exclusive interview. Excerpts:

We have been noticing fully-vaccinated persons getting infected and hospitalised too. Are our vaccines — Covaxin and Covishield — working?

Both vaccines are pretty good and the data is very strong [in their favour]. They are definitely avoiding severe symptoms or deaths. We should realise vaccines are 70-80% effective, which means 20-30% of those vaccinated are susceptible to any infection. But, these could be mild symptoms and need not require intensive hospital support. Of course, vaccination does not mean immortality!

Do those vaccinated need to go for antibodies and other tests to check immunity levels?

People should not be concerned with the antibodies count, Actually, it does not mean much because having a high count does not mean you are well protected or vice-versa. It has been established that we have cell based immunity within our body which comes into play and responds whenever a virus tries to break our protection system. But, if we allow the virus to play freely by disregarding face masks and allowing clustering of people, we will give scope for a variant to evolve even after vaccination which could breach the immune system.

Are we doing any follow-up study post-vaccination?

We are doing vaccine follow-up programmes and have already chosen fully-vaccinated volunteers for the exercise. This will go on for about two years. We cannot say if a booster dose will be necessary at this instance as it depends on new variants. But, first, we need to double dose our population as quickly as possible.

What should the people do in the coming months till vaccination programme is completed?

We have burnt our fingers enough so we have to be very careful and socially responsible. Face masking and social distancing should become part of our culture for the next few months, You can get married, but it needs just two individuals! Indoor spaces with poor ventilation should be avoided, be it offices, restaurants, bars or cinemas as you are taking a risk irrespective of your vaccination status. The 25%-50% capacity allowance in restaurants, theatres etc., is dangerous as it has been proven that even a single infected person can transmit the virus in the entire room, especially when there is not enough outside air circulation.

Is it safe for fully vaccinated people to meet socially?

We have to practise something like being in a bio-bubble. We can be sure with our immediate family for care they are taking but when any outsider/house-help comes, we have to put our mask on, as we are not sure where they have been moving around. Maintaining such precautions, you can meet others in COVID secure setting where there is plenty of free air circulation and physical distancing of one metre or more.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 4:49:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/vaccines-are-working-but-social-vaccine-must-for-six-months/article34744953.ece

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