(P.Vijay Raghavan)

Throughout the world the third phase of Covid19 is spreading at a rapid pace. Though the Central and State governments are making tall claims of situation being under control, the opposite appears to be happening. In India on Sunday the 9th January’22, 1.75 lacs positive cases were reported in a single day. The tally is assumed to shoot up to 3.5 lacs a day by January/February end. Combined to this is the alarming rise of Omicron infected patients.

The figures are based on the patients who have been tested and found positive. The fact remains that throughout the country there are more than 30% people who have no faith in the vaccination and are superstitious about it.  This is a serious issue. Let us look into some of the facts.

The COVID-19 Vaccine: Myths vs. Facts

Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation surrounding the vaccines and their development. When deciding whether to get the vaccine, it’s important to separate myths from facts.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe because it was developed so quickly.
Fact: The vaccines are proven safe and effective. Although they were developed in record time, they have gone through the same rigorous Food and Drug Administration process as other vaccines, meeting all safety standards. No steps were skipped. Instead, we can thank the unprecedented worldwide collaboration and investment for the shorter timeframe on the development of the vaccines. The clinical trials and safety reviews actually took about the same amount of time as other vaccines. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine will alter my DNA.
Fact: The first vaccines in use contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to make the “spike protein” found on the new corona virus. When the immune system recognizes this protein, it builds an immune response by creating antibodies — teaching the body how to protect against future infection. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The body gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using the instructions. 

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine includes a tracking device.
Fact: A video shared thousands of times on ‘Facebook’ makes false claims about the products of syringe maker Apiject Systems of America, which has a contract with the government to provide medical-grade injection devices for vaccines. The company has an optional version of its product that contains a microchip within the syringe label that helps providers confirm a vaccine dose’s origin. The chip itself is not injected into the person getting the vaccine.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine has severe side effects such as allergic reactions.
Fact: Some participants in the vaccine clinical trials did report side effects similar to those experienced with other vaccines, including muscle pain, chills and headache. And although extremely rare, people can have severe allergic reactions to ingredients used in a vaccine. That’s why experts recommend people with a history of severe allergic reactions — such as anaphylaxis — to the ingredients of the vaccine should not get the vaccination.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility in women.
Fact: Misinformation on social media suggests the vaccine trains the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta, which could lead to infertility in women. The truth is, there’s an amino acid sequence shared between the spike protein and a placental protein; however, experts say it’s too short to trigger an immune response and therefore doesn’t affect fertility.

 Myth: I’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19, so I don’t need to receive the vaccine.
Fact: If you have already had COVID-19, there’s evidence that you can still benefit from the vaccine. At this time, experts don’t know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called natural immunity, varies from person to person. Some early evidence suggests natural immunity may not last very long.

Myth: Once I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I no longer need to wear a mask.
Fact: Masking, hand washing and physical distancing remain necessary in public until a sufficient number of people are immune. Fully vaccinated people can meet with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. 

 Myth: You can get COVID-19 from the vaccine.
Fact: You cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine because it doesn’t contain the live virus.

Myth: Once I receive the vaccine, I will test positive for COVID-19.
Fact: Viral tests used to diagnose COVID-19 check samples from the respiratory system for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Since there is no live virus in the vaccines, the vaccines will not affect your test result. It is possible to get infected with the virus before the vaccine has had time to fully protect your body. 

Myth: I’m not at risk for severe complications of COVID-19 so I don’t need the vaccine.
Fact: Regardless of your risk, you can still contract the infection and spread it to others, so it’s important you get vaccinated. Once the vaccine is widely available, it’s recommended that as many eligible adults as possible get the vaccine. It’s not only to protect you but your family and community as well.

Myth: If I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, I am at a greater risk to become sick from another illness.
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that getting the vaccine heightens your risk to become sick from another infection such as the flu.

Myth: Certain blood types have less severe COVID-19 infections, so getting a vaccine isn’t necessary.
Truth: Research has shown there is no reason to believe being a certain blood type will lead to increased severity of COVID-19. By choosing to get vaccinated, you are protecting not only yourself and your family but your community as well.

New Cases Across the state crossed 30, 000 marks on Wednesday (File Pic.)

Vaccines and Boosters Offer Best Defense against Omicron

Message is simple –“Now is the perfect time”

People need every bit of protection they can get as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country and drives infections to record highs.

“Omicron is much more contagious than previous variants,” said Day, the co-chair of MU Health Care’s vaccine committee. “One person with the delta variant would be expected to infect one other person. With omicron, one person is likely to infect three other people. So we’re seeing breakthrough cases and higher case counts. Vaccination, especially getting your booster dose when eligible, remains your best protection against hospitalization, requiring ICU-level care or a ventilator, or death from COVID-19.”

study  examined the effectiveness of the vaccine against the omicron variant. It found that vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization is 52% after one dose and 72% for the first 24 weeks after the second dose. The effectiveness waned to 52% beyond 24 weeks after the second dose but soared back up to 88% after a booster dose.

The good news about omicron is it does seem to cause less severe symptoms than previous variants, but Day cautioned that people shouldn’t make the mistake of letting their guard down.

“Omicron may produce more mild symptoms for many people, but it’s dangerous because it’s so contagious and does lessen the effectiveness of some of our treatment options,” Day said. “There are plenty of vulnerable people in our population who are at high risk of getting severely ill from this. Please get vaccinated to protect yourself and others.”

COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know About Booster Shots

The first COVID-19 vaccine became available in late 2020, and since then more than 60% of the total population has been fully vaccinated. Now, as the omicron variant emerges, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend booster doses for all elderly persons who have had their second dose nine months earlier.

  • If you got the vaccine, you should get your booster nine months after completing your primary vaccine series.

Why are booster doses recommended?

Although the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, the CDC has found that their protection against mild to moderate disease decreases over time. Studies have shown that a booster shot not only lengthens immunity but helps to broaden and strengthen your immune response, even against variants such as omicron.

The Omicron Variant: What we need to know

The omicron corona virus variant has overtaken delta as the dominant strain in the world.

Eigther take precaution or Peril

Why is the new variant called omicron?

The corona virus, like all viruses, changes over time as it looks for ways to avoid our defenses, and scientists use letters of the Greek alphabet to name each variant. After the original corona virus mutated, one of the first variants was dubbed the alpha variant. Since then, scientists have identified an additional six variants, with omicron being the latest.

How are corona virus variants classified?

Variants are classified either as variants of interest (VOI) or variants of concern (VOC). Omicron is classified as a VOC, as is the delta variant, which is more contagious than earlier corona virus variants and is still the predominant strain .

The VOC classification means scientists have noted:

  • An increase in virus contagiousness or other serious changes to the virus makeup; OR
  • An increase in the severity of disease; OR
  • A decrease in effectiveness of available testing, vaccines and treatments.

Scientists classified omicron as a VOC because preliminary evidence shows it is more contagious.

How serious is the omicron variant?

Each corona virus variant includes mutations that help the virus to survive and spread. For instance, before omicron, the delta variant had the most known mutations, and it was the most contagious variant.

Scientists have identified many more mutations in omicron, including nearly 30 that are unique to this variant, that make the virus more contagious. Although it spreads more easily than past corona virus variants, there are still details about it that remain unknown, including whether it causes more severe illness.

The good news is that there’s no reason to panic. We already have ways to protect ourselves from the omicron variant.

How can I protect myself from the omicron variant?

Get vaccinated. The best way to stop viruses from mutating is to slow their spread, and the best way to slow their spread is through vaccination. Scientists are confident the existing vaccines will continue to offer protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

And there’s another bright spot: Scientists are learning more about booster shots, and it appears the booster does more than just “top off” antibody levels. It might even help broaden your defenses in a way that offers protection against omicron and future variants.  So, the message on vaccines is simple: Everyone 15 and older should get vaccinated, and boosters are recommended for all senior citizens and health workers who took their second vaccination nine months earlier

Masking and distancing. These public health measures, along with good hand hygiene, are proven to reduce infection from a variety of viruses, including the corona virus. Wearing a mask or keeping your distance is another way to prevent spread and, by extension, deny the virus a chance to survive and spread.

(With references from reliable sources)