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CHANDIGARH

Covid-19 vaccination: Senior citizens have shown trust and faith in science, says PGI director

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ON March 17, Chandigarh reported 201 new COVID-19 cases, with a steady increase seen this month.

“It is a huge setback, we have gone back six months, with September to December witnessing a decline in cases. At PGI, we have more than 100 patients in the Covid Hospital, and the way the new cases are rising, the pandemic won’t end in a hurry. The main reasons are that no protocols are being followed, many events with large gatherings and no social distancing are taking place, and people are ignoring Covid-appropriate behaviour. The two most important tools to prevent the spread of infection are masks and vaccination, and I urge citizens to mask up, and those eligible, should get vaccinated at the earliest, with PGI witnessing a very positive response from people above 60 years of age, who have come forward with great enthusiasm to take the vaccine and have shown trust and faith in science,” said Prof Jagat Ram, director, PGI.

Since the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, beginning March 1, was opened to citizens above 60 years of age, the initiative has seen a heartening response, with on average, more than 1,500 seniors coming forward to take the vaccine. While on March 4, 1,530 seniors were inoculated, the number increased to 1,718 on March 5.

March 8 saw a high number of 2,338 people opt for the vaccine while on March 10, 1,725 were given the vaccine. In the last two days, 2,998 seniors received the COVID-19 vaccine. Since March 1, 20,413 senior citizens have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as compared to 18,273 health workers, who have received the first and second dose, since the drive began on January 16.

Dr Amandeep Kang, director, Health Service, UT, agrees that senior citizens in the city have come forward in large numbers to opt for the vaccine, making use of the 35 sites set up for vaccinations and says that now seniors in colonies must be encouraged and motivated to opt for the vaccine, so that the rate of transmission is checked.

Naresh Goyal, a 73-year-old retired school teacher from Sector 18, Chandigarh, who received the first dose of the vaccine on March 12, motivated his friends from the morning walk group to take the shot, as many were apprehensive about the process of registration, waiting time at the hospital, pain and side effects.

“My daughter helped us with the process, as I talked to all of them about the benefits of the vaccine, how we as seniors must set an example and also, personally, at this stage of life, where we have seen so much, I feel we will only gain from the vaccine, we will be able to step out, meet people, not be afraid of getting infected or infecting anyone. I came back hale and hearty after my vaccine, had no pain or fever and since then, many of my friends have opened up to the idea. I feel that members of the resident welfare associations must hold talks on the vaccine to encourage people and also arrange for teams of private hospitals to come to residential colonies for the process,” Goyal adds.

Dr Parvinder Chawla, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, says the response has been more than overwhelming, with almost 300 seniors getting their shots every day and hardly adverse reactions reported. “It is so refreshing to note the concept of adult vaccination being adopted so well by the elders.”

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On March 16, the National Vaccination Day, Godrej Appliances, collaborated with Dr Sanjeev Bagai, Padmashree Awardee, and Dr B C Roy Presidential Awardee, to address some vital issues regarding the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Terming herd immunity as a necessity, the doctor described it as a critical threshold in which a community develops immunity, which is either through natural infection or induced through vaccine, as an active immunity in which the community stops transmitting the infection.

It is like breaking the chain of transmission and requires between 60 and 70 per cent of the entire country’s population to be vaccinated. The quicker the vaccines reach humans all over the world, the sooner and easier it would be to get a grip on this pandemic, with India looking at vaccinating approximately 30 crore people in the next few months.

In terms of reaching this level of immunity, he added, it is to be kept in mind that the viruses also mutate, which is a normal evolution phenomenon of the virus to survive – making the virus more transmissible, with an increase in its infectivity, and so it becomes resistant to the neutralizing antibodies. “This is another key reason why the vaccination programme needs to be quick and time-bound.”

Addressing issues of vaccine hesitancy and safety, Dr Bagai said that there has been no case report to indicate questions around the safety of the vaccine. This vaccine, he asserted, doesn’t cause any multi-organ involvement, any impotency, brain, heart or spinal damage, and the side effects have been even smaller than the influenza shots. It is safe in terms of efficacy, for any vaccine with more than 50-60 per cent efficacy has been proven to work very well on the field.

“Vaccine hesitancy is a cocktail of ignorance and arrogance, and everyone needs to be a transmitter of good knowledge and scientific facts, for no one is safe till everyone is safe,” he summed up.

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