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Shot of hope: UK frontline hospital staffs, senior citizens receive Covid-19 vaccine

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on December 18, 2020

Over 48,000 people have been given the vaccine without significant side effects

The government in the UK has started giving Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech to the frontline hospital staff, senior citizens and to the most vulnerable members of the population.

Respiratory diseases specialist and Indian-origin doctor Suresh Babu, who is among the earliest members of the medical community diaspora to get the dosage, received his vaccine shot on December 12.

In a telephonic interaction with BusinessLine, the respiratory physician at Portsmouth Hospitals shared his experience and his views of the mass vaccination programme.

Babu said that the process of vaccination is simple. The medical staff administering the vaccines ask a few questions about the health and allergies of the person before the shot is given, post which the patient has to be observed for 15 minutes for any allergic reaction. The patient is required to return three weeks later to receive the final dosage. After both the doses, a person will be immune to the Covid-19 virus.

Babu who hails from Kannur in Kerala said that in UK there are three different vaccines that are likely to hit the market very soon. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a mRNA vaccine. However, the problem with the mRNA vaccine is that it has to be transported at a very low temperature.

In UK, over 48,000 people have received the vaccine without experiencing significant side effects. Some developed minor symptoms such as muscle pain at the injection site and mild fever but no other serious health issues, he said.

To set off an immune response, many vaccine companies insert a weakened or a benign germ into our bodies via the vaccine but that is not the case with mRNA vaccines. Instead, such vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.

Babu said that the UK government authorised the vaccines for mass inoculation on December 2 and the National Health Service plans to provide priority vaccination to care homes for the aged and frontline staff at hospitals. The National Health Service has purchased 40 million dosages of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and it would be provided free of charge.

Babu, who has treated numerous Covid-19 patients, said that the numbers of such patients continue to rise in the UK and the ICUs are filled to the capacity with patients who require critical care. Therefore, the vaccine is a much-needed relief.

Published on December 18, 2020

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