The CEO of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, recently told The Guardian that he is confident that their coronavirus vaccine, which is being developed along with Pfizer, will help put an end to the pandemic. Preliminary results from Pfizer’s late-stage trials suggest that the vaccine could be 90 per cent effective in treating symptomatic COVID-19.
More than 150 vaccines are currently under various stages of development, worldwide. In India, the Pune-based Serum Institute aims to have 100 million doses of the vaccine it is developing along with AstraZeneca, by the end of the year.
Vaccines work by training the body to fight a disease without exposing it to the symptoms of the disease. Vaccines are made up of dead or weakened antigens, which then triggers the body to produce antibodies to fight the disease. These antibodies destroy the antigens and remain in the body, thereby giving you immunity to the disease, if you are ever exposed to it.
Myths about vaccines
Globally, immunisation prevents around 2-3 million deaths each year. If done in a timely manner, immunisation can be one of the most effective ways of stopping viruses from spreading. With the coronavirus vaccines, scientists working around the clock, are hoping that more lives are saved.
While the world waits eagerly for a vaccine so that normal life can resume, there are many others who are against it, primarily due to the myths that surround it. In the United States, as per a recent Gallup poll, only half of Americans surveyed have said that they plan to get vaccinated against the virus.
We take a look at some of the common myths surrounding the virus:
Vaccines cause autism: This myth largely stems from a 1997 study published by a British surgeon, Andrew Wakefield. The article, published in the medical journal, The Lancet, claimed that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine increased the risk of autism in British children. This was on the basis of a study conducted on 12 children.
However, further studies were unable to prove any link and the study was subsequently retracted. It was also found that the lead researcher had been paid more than half a million pounds by a lawyer who wanted to establish a link between vaccines and autism.
It is better to get immunity through natural infection: A vaccine works by triggering the immune response system of the body, much like how a regular infection does. However, vaccines are safer as they do not put the individual directly at risk that getting infected naturally does. As is the case with the COVID-19 vaccines, all licensed vaccines go through multiple, rigorous studies and trials before they are deemed to be fit for public use.
Vaccines are a way of implanting chips into the body: A rather bizarre conspiracy theory doing the rounds, especially in Germany which has seen large scale demonstrations, is that the virus and a vaccination programme are the government’s cover to plant computer chips into people to control them.
Taking COVID-19 vaccination will give you the virus: Amongst the biggest hurdles to mass immunisation is the belief that the vaccine will cause the infection. When the vaccine is injected into our body, our immune system is triggered to produce antibodies to fight the virus. However, vaccines are made from inactivated or weak viruses or just a part of it, and hence do not harm the body.
Further, vaccines are developed after intensive research and trials, and it is tested for its safety and immunogenicity, before approval. Minor side effects such as a low-grade fever due to a vaccine is likely, however, it is just an indication that the body is making antibodies to fight the virus.
Immunity boosters and proper hygiene are enough: The pandemic has spurred an entire industry of health and wellness products and immunity boosters. While these may be good for your body in the long run, the only way you can gain immunity from a virus is through a vaccine, or by contracting it.
There is also a perception that proper hygiene can halt the pandemic. Hand washing and proper hygiene practises are Imperative in reducing the spread of the virus, they cannot take the place of a vaccine in combating the virus and halting its spread.
You won’t need to wear masks after the vaccines arrive: While the vaccines will help reduce the spread of the virus, it does not mean that we can do away with masks and social distancing, immediately. Experts say that we would need to continue wearing masks and maintaining distance even after the vaccines arrive, for at least a year. This is because it will take much longer for the vaccines to cover everyone and, in the meanwhile, we won’t know how many around us have been vaccinated. We also don’t know how long the effectiveness of the vaccine lasts. All these make it imperative for us to remain cautious and safe even after we get the vaccinations.