Vaccines offer hope but just relying on the vaccine is not advised: AIIMS Professor

Neeraj Nischal.  

With health experts stating that a COVID-19 vaccine could be just around the corner Neeraj Nischal, Associate Professor of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) speaks exclusively to The Hindu’s Bindu Shajan Perappadan and warns that “seeing the vaccine as a magic bullet is fraught with danger”. He explains that social vaccines and biological vaccines will have to go hand in hand in the long fight ahead. Excerpts.

With the vaccine expected soon, how early will it aid in life going back to normal?

Seeing vaccines as a magic bullet is fraught with danger. It should be seen as the beginning of the end of the pandemic, but the journey is still long and will require efforts from all of us.

Social vaccines (COVID-19 appropriate behaviour) and biological vaccines (under development) will have to go hand in hand even when vaccines come. Though vaccines are promising, the outcome isn’t going to change overnight. It will still be a long fight and people’s participation is of utmost importance. Vaccines are always tried on healthy individuals. Efficacy in the field setting is still to be seen and vaccines offer hope, but just relying on the vaccine is not advised.

Almost all States in India are showing a spike-fall-spike pattern. What is our best bet to safeguard against COVID-19? Has the virus mutated?

As of now there is no ‘magic drug’ that works against this virus. So our best bet to safeguard ourselves from the virus has been and will continue to be — social vaccination. COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is vital. As of now, there is no evidence of any major virus mutation. But sadly, our COVID-19 appropriate behaviour has mutated. We have lowered our guard. COVID-19 fatigue has made us careless and we are not following social barriers any more. Everyone has to pitch in and become a COVID-19 warrior once again, as they did during the early days of the pandemic.

Now that we know more about the disease, what are the major complications to look out for?

Complications, if any, usually set in after one week of illness. Prolonged high fever, progressive drop in saturation and breathlessness, persistent troubling cough and difficulty in speaking are some of the warning signs.


Apart from these, any atypical symptoms that weren’t present at the start of the disease, like a new swelling in the leg, a new onset of severe chest pain, weakness of any part of the body, etc., warrants immediate medical attention.

We are seeing post-COVID-19 lung fibrosis, persistent cough, fatigue, psychological effects like anxiety and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). It’s an evolving topic and we will come to know more about this in the next 2-3 months.

Health infrastructure and manpower seem to be stretched beyond capacity with the now almost a year-long battle with the COVID-19 virus. How are hospitals and staff coping?

These are testing times for our health infrastructure. All frontline workers should be lauded for their continued effort to reduce the burden of this nagging virus. Efforts are made to ensure that the roster for all healthcare workers is made with adequate gaps between duties, so that they get enough rest. Teamwork and coordination between different healthcare professionals, and also between non-medical helper staff and the healthcare workers, is required for smooth and efficient functioning in hospitals catering to COVID-19 patients.


We try to provide psychological support to each other. The fight against this virus is far from over and we have to do our bit without getting fatigued.

What are the major myths and wrong practices that we are following?

Don’t follow viral messages on social media and get information only from verified sources like the Healthy Ministry or ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) or AIIMS websites. Myths regarding hypoxia while using a mask is one I can think of, which is totally wrong. Irrational treatment options circulating in social media are very dangerous and should not be followed. The myth that the young and healthy are totally safe from the virus is also dangerous and can have catastrophic consequences.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Oct 23, 2021 8:32:00 AM |

Next Story