Tackling vax hesitancy

Lack of trust in the efficacy of the vaccines offered to healthcare and other frontline workers in the first phase of the rollout is the main cause of the hesitancy among the people in Punjab to get the shot. It is a matter of concern and must be addressed urgently, for the much-needed herd immunity to the novel coronavirus can be induced faster through inoculation, which will pave the way for the restoration of all-round normalcy. While the government is trying to persuade the naysayers by citing the examples of senior doctors who have come forward to take the jab, only a transparent, scientific and evidence-based reasoning can lend authenticity and credibility to the information about the doses among the medical fraternity. Once they are convinced, the layperson’s qualms will be dispelled too.

Worried by the low turnout at many vaccination centres, Health Ministry officials have sought to highlight the encouraging outcome of the vaccination drive so far: only 0.18 per cent adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) and hospitalisation rate of 0.002 per cent. No doubt, it’s a heartening trend, but more confidence-building facts are required. As a letter by scientists to the ministry has demanded, an inquiry into the cause of the deaths of 16 recipients of the Covishield vaccine till January 31 is crucial. While the deaths have been ascribed to cardiovascular problems, the vaccine can be exonerated only by a thorough investigation. The results must be shared with the public to win it over.

It is this thoroughness that has rightly marked the drug regulatory authorities’ approach to the meeting of exacting standards in allowing vaccines. Pfizer had to recently withdraw its application for emergency use of Covid-19 vaccine in India as it has not yet conducted local clinical trials that are necessary to gauge its efficacy, safety and dose regimen. The decision assumes significance in the light of safety concerns raised by Norway in the wake of 29 elderly people with underlying conditions dying after receiving the Pfizer shot. Covishield and Covaxin must also pass all tests for greater public acceptance.

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