Why vaccinate if you can still get infected?
Three reasons inoculation is the best bet, according to WHOSunday, August 15, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
A frequently asked question by sceptics around the world is: “Why do I need to take the COVID-19 vaccine if I can still get the virus?” If that's something you've also been wondering about, Dr Kate O'Brien, director of the department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals at the World Health Organization (WHO), explains why.
Speaking during the WHO's Science in 5 programme, O'Brien underscored the three main reasons individuals should opt to take the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with the Delta variant now in the picture.
“That's a question that lots of people are asking and I really want to emphasise that vaccines do a number of different things to protect you and protect others. They (vaccines) can protect you against getting infected at all. The second way that they work is if you become infected, you're actually shedding that virus for a shorter period of time than if you weren't vaccinated.
“And the third way that vaccines work is, again, if you happen to get infected, the amount of virus that you have in your nose, in the back of your throat, that you're shedding and potentially transmitting to somebody is less of the virus. There's less density of the virus in you and so, less risk that you transmit it to somebody else,” she explained.
The vaccines that are being used to fight COVID-19, according to O'Brien, are “incredibly effective vaccines”, and people have seen the results from the clinical trials, anywhere in the 80 to 90 per cent range of efficacy.
“But that does not mean that a hundred per cent of people, a hundred per cent of the time are going to be protected against disease. There is no vaccine that provides that level of protection for any disease. So we do expect, in any vaccine programme, that there will be rare cases of disease among people who were fully vaccinated and, certainly, among some people who were partially vaccinated,” she said.
These rare instances are referred to as “breakthrough infections” and O'Brien categorically stated that it doesn't mean that the vaccines aren't working.
“It doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the vaccines. What it does mean is that not everybody who receives vaccines has a hundred per cent protection. What we do want to really emphasise for people is that it's so important to get vaccinated because these vaccines are really effective and it gives you a really good chance of not developing disease,” she said.
Also, in the event that one contracts the virus, the degree of severity among people who have been vaccinated is less harmful than it is in individuals who aren't vaccinated.
“Vaccines are operating in a couple of different ways. First, of course, they are preventing people from getting disease at all. And even when disease does occur among people who are fully vaccinated, the severity of that disease is less. We're monitoring this really carefully,” she said.
“They [breakthrough infections] are uncommon and so, this is not something that's happening in an unexpected way. But they don't happen equally among all different kinds of people. People who are at increased risk of disease… so people with frail immune systems, people who are in older age groups, they have a greater risk of having breakthrough disease than other people,” O'Brien continued.
She, however, said more cases of breakthrough infection are being detected because people are stopping, in part, the other interventions that reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
“When the virus starts to transmit at a greater and greater pace and with greater frequency, there's a lot more exposure that everybody has, including people who are vaccinated. What is so critical in interrupting transmission of this virus has to be vaccines and all the other things that we're doing, especially while people are still in the process of getting vaccinated. Now really isn't the time for us to reduce those other interventions while we're living in communities that don't have substantial vaccinations yet.”
In Jamaica, as the Ministry of Health and Wellness, public health experts and various other groups continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, the ministry is still urging Jamaicans to remain vigilant with their mask-wearing, maintaining physical distance, and frequently washing and/or sanitising hands.
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