- 20 May 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed multiple substantial challenges, affecting not only public health but also economic systems, socio-cultural patterns, and political institutions. But it seems, even the crack of doom comes with a silver lining and the effectiveness of vaccines is now clearly visible in global charts. The myths around the vaccines are creating unnecessary panic, we bust some of these myths here.
With the second wave of COVID-19 almost grappling and noozing the country, now people over 18 years are allowed for vaccination from May 1st. However, people are finding it difficult to trust the efficacy of vaccines and relying more on nature to take its course. And some have gone too far to even assume this as an apocalypse. It's very hard to see light at the end of the tunnel when one is so overshadowed by darkness but fortunately, we have got a good team of doctors and researchers across the world who are breaking these chains and shackles to bring to us a safer and healthier world. As per experts the wave can last up to 12 weeks.
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What is the RT-PCR test and how is it important?
A few days back, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) rejected a Maharashtra government request to reduce the cycle threshold (CT) value cut-off from 35 to 24 for positivity rate under the RT-PCR test. Whether and how this CT value is related to the viral load in a patient is still under question. Nevertheless, it is a potential marker of the severity of Covid-19 infection as has been projected in the research paper,' Association between RT-PCR Ct Values and COVID-19 New Daily Cases: A Multicenter Cross-Sectional Study' by Abdulkarim Abdulrahman et. al. According to this paper, a retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted on 63,879 patients from May 4, 2020 to September 30, 2020, in all COVID-19 facilities in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Data collected included number of tests and newly diagnosed cases, as well as Ct values, age, gender nationality, and symptomatic status. It happens to be one of the first and largest studies to investigate the epidemiologic associations of Ct values with COVID-19.
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), CT refers to the number of cycles needed to amplify viral RNA to reach a detectable level. Specimens with lower CT values generally have more viral RNA than those with higher values, suggesting the severity of the COVID-19 infection. The CT value thus could flag off at-risk patients and prioritise them for contact tracing.A patient is considered COVID-19 negative if the CT value is 35 in the RT-PCR test. If the CT value is below 35 in the RT-PCR test, a patient is a COVID-19 positive.
Why are the RT-PCR tests coming out to be negative?
Dr. Abhay Kumar, Professor at Microbiology department, RIMS, told us that the negative reports are coming due to lack of attention by those who are taking the sample. The sample has to be taken properly from the nasopharynx and oropharynx. Without proper procedure being followed, the specimen won’t give proper results. Hence, stop going for unnecessary testing, consult a doctor and don’t do anything by yourself.
Resident doctor, Akanksha Dubey, told us that if RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) is positive it implies without a doubt that the person is positive. If it comes negative but symptoms persists, it is suggested to go for RTPCR.
What is Remdesivir, is it effective like a vaccine?
The recent press release by Ministry of Health and Family welfare very clearly states that Remdesivir is not a life saving drug; and its efficacy to prevent death is not established. Remdesivir must only be given in patients having moderate symptoms with hospital settings. It is not a drug to be administerd under home settings and hence doing so is completely unethical and dangerous.
Similarly, multiple large scale trials in the UK by NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) have explicitly and conclusively shown that plasma therapy too has no visible effect whatsoever in recovery/cure/prevention of death due to Covid19. In fact, UK had discontinued plasma therapy and plasma donation long time back after the results of NIHR trial came out.
There is urgent need to stop hoarding of this drug. Let the drug be available for those who really need it.
What is pushing these vaccines back?
Misconceptions and unnecessary hype. Side-effects are part of any treatment and vaccination is not an exception to the law. Different bodies tend to react differently to a treatment and this is the exact reason why some people live years with treatments like chemotherapy and dialysis while others find it difficult to strive with them.
When health problems develop soon after vaccination, people tend to blame the vaccine. Yet cancer, strokes, heart attacks, blood disorders, and rare illnesses occurred before the pandemic, and will of course continue to happen. If thorough investigation shows certain health problems are occurring at a higher than normal rate, the vaccine could be to blame. If not, it’s more likely to be an unfortunate coincidence that’s not related to the vaccine. For example, rare cases of Bell’s palsy and other neurologic disease have been reported after COVID vaccination. But so far, there is no clear suggestion that the vaccine played any role. Similarly, a fatal blood disorder suffered by a Florida physician two weeks after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine raised concerns that it was triggered by the vaccine. Authorities are investigating this and similar cases. This condition did not occur among the tens of thousands of clinical trial subjects, so it might be a complete coincidence.
Another misconception is that one won't get the infection once he or she is vaccinated. Vaccination does not necessarily guarantee immunity against reinfection although it does assure one of reduced risks and fatality.
Image Credits: Gov.UK
Where have vaccines come up with stupendous results?
The otherwise bustling city of London during the time of Christmas, was unrecognisable last winter when the daily COVID-19 cases were record high. However, things have changed a lot since then. Coronavirus infections in England have fallen to their lowest level since September, according to the latest results of a random swab testing survey by the Office for National Statistics. An estimated one in 480 people in communities in England had COVID-19 in the week up to 10 April, down from about one in 340 the previous week. It is the lowest prevalence rate recorded since the week up to 24 September, during which an estimated one in 500 people had covid-19.
Image file : Mass vaccination results are encouraging for United Kingdom
These numbers for England are “encouraging”, said James Naismith at the University of Oxford in a statement. “The lockdown has worked as expected as has the vaccination campaign,” he said, adding that robust testing and sequencing to identify coronavirus variant cases remain vital.
Similar trends have been noticed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales where the promising estimates show one in 500, one in 710 and one in 920 people, respectively, had COVID-19 during the week up to 10 April.
All 50 states of the United States of America have agreed to allow access to the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to individuals ages 16 years and older after witnessing the bright side of vaccination. Many states are showing signs of improvement based on drastic reduction in cases numbers and hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients. Thanks to multiple vaccine advocacy campaigns, massive point-of-dispensing sites, and outreach to at-risk communities.
To further accentuate the positive sides of vaccination, only recently the global death rate had slipped to a 2% after nearly a six-month record of 3%.
Does this mean Covishield and Covaxin are ineffective for Indian double mutant variant B1617?
We don't know & we need more studies to reach any solid conclusion. However, by the nature of antibodies and the immune response, even if the vaccines don't protect you from infection or mild/moderate infection caused by the B1617 double mutant variants, they definitely protect from severe symptoms and death.
If the Covaxin & Covishield vaccines are ineffective against Indian strain, why should we bother taking then?
Because, despite low efficacy of the vaccines against certain mutant strains (especially the strains with mutation at residue 484), the vaccines do protect from severe symptoms, acute damage to internal organs and death. Please understand that a strong level of protection from death/severity is much more beneficial than no protection whatsoever. Don't worry about efficacy numbers right now.
As per Dr. Gagandeep Kang, virologist, If people are getting sick after first dose of vaccination, it is likely it has happened in the first three weeks of vaccination. Vaccines are not supposed to prevent infection. Vaccines are supposed to prevent severe conditions such as ICUs.
Sputnik V approved
While most parts of Europe grapple with unexpected blood clots and other medical complications, claimed to be serious side-effects of AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccine, India approves Russian vaccine Sputnik V for emergency use. Hyderabad based Dr Reddy's, the official licensing partner of the vaccine in India will start importing doses of the vaccine from May. According to rumoured reports, the company will secure 250 million doses of the vaccine for use in India.The DCGI granted necessary approvals for usage in India based on the interim results of the vaccine trials done in Russia, which showed a 91.6% rate. The availability of Sputnik V will geer up Covid vaccination in India.
Image Credits: ANI NEWS
As per Dr. Manuraj, Pedatrician and Research methodologist, the Covid game is now fought between vaccines and the variants. There is no doubt that the vaccines will win in the end. But how quickly and at what cost are the questions for the day. The globe is vaccinating at top speed. Big countries like India are lagging a lot with less than 5% coverage as of today. The second wave is just unfolding for the country and will be taller for sure. We need to cross the one third mark for vaccine coverage to have a serious grip on the joystick. Till its over, got get your shots and trust your mask and your soap. And keep some distance too for some more time. That is our helmet and seat belt bundled into one. There is no other option. Rock it at your own risk. Or just stay safe.
Although, vaccination is doing a great job in pulling down the numbers, just vaccination may not be enough to eradicate the infection. Mask wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowded places are equally important, if not more.
In a recent data examined from all 50 states and Washington DC to assess mask policies, people’s self-reported use of masks in public shows states with the lowest levels of mask adherence were most likely to have high COVID-19 rates in the very subsequent month, independent of mask policy or demographic factors.
This article uses inputs and research by Adrija Ray Chaudhury and Kshitij Mohan Singh.
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