Science

First dose: Some doctors look forward to vaccine, others seek answers

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 15, 2021

Doctors and other frontline workers to get the shot on Saturday

As doctors roll-up their sleeves to get the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in India, some of them will remember their colleagues who succumbed to the virus.

Over 730 doctors died “while fighting Covid”, Dr Jayesh Lele, Honorary Secretary General with the Indian Medical Association, told BusinessLine. Even the doctor who collated these details died from Covid, he says, agreeing that the number increases when you include nurses and other support staff in the wards. Healthcare workers in non-Covid facilities too were at risk, because they treated patients without the protective gear and any patient could have brought the infection, he says.

Also read: PM Modi to launch Covid-19 vaccination drive on January 16

On Saturday, India rolls-out two vaccines — from Serum Institute (making the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine) and Bharat Biotech — for doctors and other frontline workers.

Having practised for 44 years, Dr Lele has registered to take the vaccine and is not particular about which one he gets. Unlike the small-pox vaccine that was given to everyone, this one is not compulsory and those having misgivings can refuse it, he says.

Trial details

And misgivings there are. Doctors from different regions have expressed concerns on not having the entire clinical trial details before them, before giving them the shot. Nor will they have the option to choose between the vaccines.

Dr Pradeep Kumar, consultant orthopaedic and arthroscopy surgeon with New Hope Medical Centre, is not satisfied with relying on vaccine trial data from just European volunteers, for instance. It is important to have clinical trial data from Indian volunteers, he says, pointing out that little was known in terms of the duration or the period of time the vaccine would protect an individual or the frequency with which the vaccine needed to be taken.

Having lost his senior colleague to Covid-19 and worn protective gear just to bury him in a dramatic incident in Chennai last year, Pradeep says, he would have taken the vaccine if trials had been completed and there was greater transparency on the scientific data.

Possible shortages

Besides not having critical information on the vaccine and whether it works, he is also worried about possible shortages that could arise, since just two companies were making the vaccines. If the Government is confident on a vaccine, more companies should be brought in to manufacture it and avoid shortages and black-marketing, he added.

The medical fraternity, in fact, is seeing equally strong opinions and petitions, both for and against the Covid-19 vaccines. IMA’s national president JA Jayalal put out messages urging doctors to be a “role model”. A day before the vaccination drive, more messages went out saying “Don’t hesitate, vaccinate”.

Also read: About 3 lakh healthcare workers to get vaccine shots on 1st day of Covid-19 inoculation drive

In fact, at 10.30 am on Saturday, Dr Alok Roy will be getting his first dose of the vaccine. He has no hesitation in taking either vaccine, adding that both were safe and there was nothing to trigger a bad reaction. Dr Roy is Chair FICCI Health Services Committee and Chairman Medica group of Hospitals. “I have seen fear in people’s eyes due to the virus,” he says, recommending that the vaccination drive go the “whole hog” and cover the entire population.

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Published on January 15, 2021
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