Take the shot — it could save your life

Dr Sangxa Rozani

Just about every parent worries about the reaction of their newborn baby when they receive their second vaccine by injection, usually at six weeks.

The first vaccine is against tuberculosis (TB) and is administered just after birth.

Most parents usually don’t even notice in the excitement and exhaustion of the little person’s arrival.

If the parents and healthcare workers are diligent, the child goes through 11 vaccinations by the time they reach the age of six.

These vaccines protect them against various illnesses including TB, polio, diphtheria, haemophilus influenzas and measles, to name a few.

Vaccination is defined as the administration of a vaccine to help the immune system develop protection from a disease.

When a sufficiently large percentage of a population has been vaccinated, herd immunity is achieved.

Herd immunity is when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease — this provides indirect protection for those who are not immune to the disease.

As the first disease for which a vaccine was produced, smallpox was eradicated in 1979.

There has also been success in the elimination of polio due to vaccination.

Yet, as late as the 1970s and 1980s children were still suffering and dying from polio.

The vaccination programme has been so successful that most young people probably do not know that some of their disabled relatives were victims of the disease before a vaccine became available and included in the child inoculation schedule.

We have been devastated by Covid-19 for more than a year now, and in some countries the death toll is still climbing.

Being a front-line health worker, I was infected in December last year.

I was tested, even though I had no symptoms, because many staff were testing positive.

This period will remain in my memory because my friend was not so lucky.

We tested positive at about the same time and spoke daily on the phone. He ended up on a ventilator and succumbed to Covid-19 on Christmas Day.

This is a terrible disease because it does not only kill or cause intense pain to its victims, we do not know how our bodies will react when we are infected with Covid-19.

Though there are some core and consistent symptoms such as coughing and difficulty in breathing, the total range of conditions is very wide.

As a result, it has killed people who were otherwise perfectly healthy while people who do not exercise or eat well have survived.

Fortunately, pharmaceutical companies have been able to develop Covid-19 vaccines.

We owe a debt of gratitude to all the volunteers who participated in the vaccine trials.

There are now several commercially available vaccines that can help us get to herd immunity.

What now need as many people as possible to be vaccinated.

Data from Israel suggests that infections occurring 12 days or longer after vaccination have significantly reduced viral loads, potentially affecting viral shedding and contagiousness as well as severity of the disease.

A UK study of healthcare workers at Cambridge University Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust found a fourfold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic infection among healthcare workers less than 12 days post-vaccination, compared with unvaccinated healthcare workers.

What vaccines also do is prevent severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

Just last week, World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that: “Today [12 May] it was my turn to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“Vaccines save lives. It’s critical to get them to all countries ASAP. If like me you live in a country where vaccines are available, please get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

“To make vaccines available to all who need them, governments, manufacturers and other stakeholders must commit to share and produce more doses of Covid-19 vaccines to protect everyone.”

I fully agree with Dr Ghebreyesus.

I know that many people remain sceptical of the new Covid-19 vaccines and refuse to be vaccinated but these vaccines are no different in the function they perform to the vaccines their children take.

There are other examples, too, like the “flu shot” people take to protect themselves against influenza viruses that are expected to be common during this upcoming winter season.

Because influenza viruses keep changing, so do flu shots.

Medical researchers are always updating them throughout the year, so that the specific shot you took the previous year is unlikely to be effective the following year.

Every country in the world has visa requirements for entry. These include the necessary vaccinations a traveller needs to have to be granted entry, such as malaria and yellow fever.

Business travellers, tourists, and sports teams comply freely with these. This is why travel clinics have become common.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed to this year because of the pandemic. They are scheduled to take place between July 23 and August 8.

Pfizer has donated free doses to competitors and staff.

“This donation of the vaccine is another tool in our toolbox of measures to help make the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games safe and secure for all participants, and to show solidarity with our gracious Japanese hosts,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

With so much misinformation about the vaccine, some of it by globally famous politicians, Britain’s Prince Harry had what I thought was a good response.

“What we really need to be aware of and what we cannot allow to happen is science being politicised. So many things have been politicised over the years, but now we’re now talking about life and death.

“Vaccines cannot be politicised. But being able to come together as humans, as people, is how we are going to get ourselves out of this.

“And we must ensure that everyone around the world has equal access to the vaccine, otherwise, none of this works.”

If your children’s vaccination schedule is up to date, you comply with all the visa regulations of the countries you visit, why would you not take a vaccine that will save your life?

When your turn comes to be vaccinated, take the shot.

I’ve received mine and feel much safer now that I have.

Had my late friend been able to get the Covid-19 vaccine, he might have had a fighting chance, but the same does not need to happen to you or those you love.

• Dr Sangxa Rozani is a UK-based medical doctor originally from SA



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