Dr. Jacob Eapen-
Dr. Jacob Eapen, a Medical Director at the Alameda Health System(AHS) and a member of the Board of Directors at the Washington Hospital in Fremont, California. He is also the Regional Vice President of the Federation of Kerela Association in North America(FOKANA). The views expressed are his own.
As the pandemic is hauling across the globe breaking all records in new cases, hospital admissions and deaths preventive vaccines have reached all 50 States. The world is celebrating the first anniversary of the virus from Wuhan since it was first reported. America is losing a life every 30 seconds or so. California has become the newest epicenter of the pandemic. Tennessee has recorded the highest per capita number of cases. People celebrate one holiday after another and seem to be paying for it. This link between holidays and peaks in the pandemic is a vicious cycle. We are the crossroads of disease and prevention. Coming days will be very critical and will decide the course of history. Vaccinations are in full swing. This probably is the best Santa’s gift for Christmas people were waiting for.
Pfizer/BioN vaccines are in hospitals for almost a week now. About 250,000 people have received the vaccinations. Priority varies from state to state though in principle hospital healthcare workers are in the first tier. It varies from institution to institution. Stanford University just vaccinated 7 of their 1300 residents in the first round causing a big protest and Stanford medicine finally apologized for its vaccine distribution plan. Though surveys showed an acceptance rate of about 60% the acceptance among doctors seems very high. Nobody knows now about the second batch’s arrival. When is it arriving? Though it has been told that the second batch will have less than predicted no one knows how many doses are coming. When will we have the Moderna vaccine just approved by the FDA? Can the cold chain be sustained? Covid seems to generate more questions than answers. But these numbers are so essential for administers to plan and execute the operation.
Six people so far have had severe allergic reactions immediately after the vaccination but none were fatal, 2 in UK and 4 in the USA. This again is not statistically significant considering such low numbers. The most common side effects are local pain, myalgia, headache, and fatigue. This is the reason for keeping recipients for observation for half an hour after receiving the vaccine.
Pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt from the vaccinations as clinical trials were not done on them though animal studies showed no adverse effects noticed in the foetus. Children less than 16 years are also not included as they were also not part of the trial but there is a talk about lowering the age limit to 12 years. The continuing clinical trials are now including children also.
Along with all this now we are talking about the mutation of the virus. Just as vaccines begin to offer hope for a path out of the pandemic, officials in Britain sound alarm of a new variant of the virus circulating in England. In South Africa too a similar version of the virus has emerged. Scientists are worried about these variations but not surprised. Because of vaccinations and growing immunity in human populations, researchers expect the virus to mutate for its survival. The British variant has about 20 mutations and believes this new variant is about 70% more transmissible. But several experts urging caution and not to create a panic situation have declared that it would take years for the virus to evolve enough to render the vaccines impotent. Like all viruses, the coronavirus is a shape-shifter. Some genetic changes are inconsequential. The mutation affecting antibody susceptibility is technically called 69-70 deletion, meaning there are missing letters in the code. These variations appeared independently in Thailand and Germany in early 2020 and became prevalent in Denmark and England in August. Immunizing about 60 percent of the population and keeping the number of cases down while that happens, will help from viruses mutating significantly. Scientists around the world are monitoring this very closely. The newer vaccines can also be tweaked easily to make adjustments, unlike the old vaccines. Mutations are common in viruses especially in influenza and less in measles-like viruses.
Despite being recognized as one of the most successful public health measures, vaccination is considered unsafe by many individuals. The medical profession has a large role in educating this group. Moderna’s vaccine will roll into many hospitals by tomorrow. There is a hush all over the world. Thank God! The efficacy and side effects of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the same. Otherwise, this could be another reason to polarise a country that is already divided. Jingle bells are ringing, ventilator beeps are dimming and jabs are coming in! They say big things come in small packages and it is true for the Covid vaccines.
Wishing you all a Merry.. Merry Vaccination!