Nabanita Roy Chattopadhyay and Tathagata Choudhuri*
Department of Biotechnology, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan.
*E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile: +919861724726.
COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest global issue nowadays, is universally agreed to be won by effective vaccination only, as no conclusive drug and/or treatment strategy is available till date. In comparison to the developed countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the rate of vaccination in India is lower and the percentage of vaccinated persons are much lower.
Despite the Central Government’s awareness campaigns and vaccination offers via CoWIN site, this lower rate of vaccination is heightening the risk of the speculated third wave of COVID. But there are a few reasons behind the lower rate, which should be addressed as early and widely as possible. Firstly, safety data should be introduced in the awareness programmes. Most of the general public are afraid of the possible adverse effects of any vaccine. Including COVAXIN, all available vaccines against COVID-19 are developed fast and are issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This information creates a panic in public, and it results in unacceptance of vaccines even in health care workers (HCW).
Another major reason involves the activities of media and social sites. Though most of the print- and electronic media try to deliver the accurate information, insufficient scientific analysis in those news generate ill-informed public. Some of these people vomit those undigested bogus along with their own unrealistic speculations on social media platforms; thus, eventually destroying the efforts of the Government. Some examples of such ‘social media information’ for side effects of vaccination are as follows: lower sperm-count, decreased survival rate in normal people, infertility in women, increased risks for other diseases, risk of heart attacks after vaccination, etc.
The most threatening idea spreading in social media platforms is, any vaccine is useless and unnecessary at all. As the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19 shows less ‘killing effect’ compared to some other viruses like Ebola and Lassa virus, those ill-informed public cannot understand the need of vaccination. They better like to wait for natural immunity after getting a mild infection with SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, the Government should put some extra effort to design campaigns to make people understand that the virus does not ask the victim for ‘mild’ or ‘major’ attack.
In contrast to the other countries, India has designed its own vaccine using the inactivated viral agent; most of the other available vaccines use a SARS-CoV-2 protein, or viral mRNA, along with some vector from other virus. But using the whole virus particle, though inactivated, has some specific benefits that cannot be expected form other vaccine development strategies.
Before discussing the benefits of inactivated viral vaccine, it must be noted that ‘inactivation’ of a virus effectively ceases its growth inside the host body. Therefore, the ‘inactivated virus’ vaccine if prepared cautiously is safe and cannot generate active live viruses in the acceptor. This vaccine, brand name ‘COVAXIN’, is reported to show more than 80% efficacy; this means, if one hundred people are vaccinated with COVAXIN, more than eighty people will have effective immunity in them after the second dose. This efficacy rate is undoubtedly appreciable; thus making this vaccine acceptable and approvable by the World Health Organization (WHO) which despite its effectiveness and safety faced some initial rejections.
COVAXIN, made in India by Bharat Biotech, confers a wide range of immune responses in the vaccinated person. As the whole ‘body’ of the virus is used, all the viral proteins are available for generating immune responses. As a result, a polyclonal antibody titre is expected in each vaccinated person, and more effective protection is expected. Probably, this is the reason that COVAXIN shows effectivity against the Delta-variety of the SASR-CoV-2. Due to mutations, the initial SARS-CoV-2 virus has generated more infectious variants, and the Delta-variety is considered the most infective one. Mutations can change viral proteins; therefore, the other vaccines which used one or two viral proteins for generating antibody responses in the recipient, may not generate affective immunity if the mutation(s) changes that selected viral protein inside the virus. This problem is not expected in COVAXIN. Generation of antibodies against at least one (or even more) unaltered viral protein(s) is expected, even when a few other viral proteins become mutated. This can make COVAXIN the ‘vaccine of choice’ for its broad-spectrum protection.
In conclusion, to combat the onset of the third wave of COVID, the Government of India should emphasize the campaigning strategies; so that, the afore-mentioned hesitancy for vaccination can be cured. The scientific phenomenon should also be used for generating public awareness, in a simple layman’s language, to reduce hesitancy for vaccination and increase the choice for COVAXIN. In this way, we all should stand for India, by using vaccine from India, for developing a better India set aside foreign counterparts if they are not willing to accept Indian sciences.
Published in July 2021 Issue