Tue | Sep 21, 2021

Garth Rattray | Infection versus injection

Published:Monday | February 22, 2021 | 12:11 AM
Reginald Henry, 69, of Washington, receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Howard University, in Washington. “I felt confident about getting the vaccine,” says Henry, who lives in a senior citzens’ building, “because God hel
Reginald Henry, 69, of Washington, receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Howard University, in Washington. “I felt confident about getting the vaccine,” says Henry, who lives in a senior citzens’ building, “because God helps those who help themselves.”

If at the onset of this pandemic, every country went into full lockdown for two or three weeks, COVID-19 would be over by April 2020. But we didn’t, and it’s too late for that now. Worldwide, almost 2 ½ million have died, 109 million are confirmed infected, stressed economies and citizens. That’s a very high price to pay for indiscipline. Because many will not simply wear a mask, practice physical distancing and sanitise their hands, the virus will continue spreading.

Apprehension about the vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 is understandable, especially with the innovative technology being employed by several of them. However, there was no shortcut or compromise during their development; they had a running start and only required tweaking. To date, the vaccine against measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective and saved innumerable millions of lives, is the best that science has produced. Current vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are 70 to 95 percent effective – good enough to significantly reduce symptoms, hospitalisations and fatalities. But a noticeable number of people worldwide and the majority of Jamaicans are averse to taking them.

We need herd immunity to protect us, but long-term natural immunity seems unattainable because the antibodies that we produce by becoming infected are temporary and the virus is constantly mutating. On the other hand, the benefit of vaccination is that the antibodies, which we produce to the shot, are expected to last longer and we can always get an annual shot (just like the flu vaccine) if it is deemed necessary.

A comparison of the possible complications of infection versus the possible complications of injection (vaccination) should provide some objectivity. Although many people are asymptomatic, those that they infect may not be so lucky, and some will die because of it. COVID-19 infection can cause fever, dry cough, headache, body aches and pains, sore throat, loss of taste and/or smell. It can also cause conjunctivitis, confusion, diarrhoea, tiredness, a rash or skin discolouration, shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, pneumonia. In some cases it can cause respiratory failure, stroke, seizures, kidney damage, kidney failure, heart problems (inflammation, heart attack, arrhythmias, heart failure), blood clots (even loss of limb). In other cases COVID-19 can result in potentially fatal multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, death at any age; it can also result in long-term organ (heart, lung, brain, kidney) damage, long-term pain, mood changes, chronic physical and mental fatigue (sometimes incapacitating). There can be loss of concentration, memory problems, sleep disorders, increased risk of neurological disorders, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and other, yet-to-be-discovered, long-term complications.

HIGH EFFICIENCY

The benefits of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, which received WHO emergency authorisation, and is currently being offered in Jamaica are: it is safe for individuals age 65 and above, and although the shots need to be given eight to 12 weeks apart, the first dose gives 76 per cent efficiency for three months. Trials show the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine has an efficiency of 82.4 per cent after the second dose is given. It is strongly suggested that this vaccine not only significantly reduces the risk of becoming infected, it may also help protect against transmission.

The potential side effects are: very temporary injection site tenderness/pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling, feeling unwell, tiredness, fever, headache, nausea, body pains; and, rarely, dizziness, vomiting, flu-like symptoms, belly pain, swollen glands, sweating, and rash. All these possible symptoms only last for one day, perhaps two at most. There have been no reports of severe adverse reactions.

Based on this overwhelming evidence, it is prudent to take the vaccine for our personal health and for the health of our entire country. Although it is still important to continue practising the anti-COVID-19 measures after vaccination, as soon as we achieve herd immunity, we can return to normality – no distancing, no special sanitising, and no masks! Getting to herd immunity without vaccination will take a very long time, devastate the economy, and could cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

On another note – I am dismayed, distressed, dejected, devastated, discombobulated, disheartened, discouraged, displeased and despaired that Ivermectin is not available in pharmacies. It is already used in humans to treat a wide variety of infections. It is expected to also reduce COVID-19 infections, reduce symptoms and save lives. There is no need for repurposing (as yet), Ivermectin just needs to be urgently imported and released into pharmacies islandwide. It is safe and can help save lives.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.