India

COVID-19 immunisation | Opinion divided on most vulnerable group


Some doctors opine that healthcare workers need not be first in line for the vaccine as they already would have enough antibodies to fight the virus

Two indigenously developed vaccines are ready for administration by January-end or by the first week of February, and healthcare workers are first in line for being administered the ‘magic shot’.

However, a question doing the rounds is whether the healthcare workers are the most vulnerable group to receive the vaccine on an emergency basis. Opinion is divided.

As per the priorities listed by the Central government and State Health Department, in the first phase all healthcare professionals — both in the government sector and private — will be the beneficiaries. Next on the list are frontline workers in the Revenue Department, Police, and Municipal Administration along with village and ward secretariat staff who work in close contact with infected persons over months, Anantapur Joint Collector A. Siri told The Hindu.

“Healthcare professionals and frontline workers have been exposed to the virus in some form or the other while handling the patients, and have developed enough antibodies to fight the virus and are not the most vulnerable group to receive an emergency vaccine shot,” said KIMS Saveera Medical Director and CEO Perangur Srinivas Prasad.

“Those who have not exposed themselves to the outside world for more than eight months — either due to their age or comorbidities, adhering to the government advice — must be on top of the priority list,” Dr. Srinivas said.

There were over 3,400 deaths of healthcare professionals in the United States, which is why their priorities are different, “We should not mimic the West and must determine our own priorities,” opined Dr. Srinivas.

Anantapur Government General Hospital Superintendent M. Ramaswamy Naik was of the opinion that healthcare workers should be given the shot on a priority basis respecting the ‘personal consent’ of an individual as the antibodies developed among them are no longer active and are on the wane, putting them on par with those in the ‘Most Vulnerable’ category.

“If one healthcare professional is vaccinated, he/she is immune for around one year as per current estimates. They do not become a spreader of the virus among the low-immunity category of patients they handle day in and day out,” Dr. Ramaswamy explained. Here, the safety of only the healthcare worker is not in question, as being a potential receiver of the virus, he/she might unknowingly become a spreader, said Dr. Ramaswamy, adding that he feels this is why top priority must be given to this group of people.

At the individual-level Kamalabai, an ANM in Anantapur, who is among those registered on Co-WIN software for receiving the vaccine, has been reading a lot on social media about the side-effects of the COVID-19

vaccine, and is hesitant to take the shot, though she had attended the dry run of the process. Genetic modifications in the body arising out of the vaccine shot is another fear that might keep some away, while many wish to adopt the ‘wait and watch’ policy before they consent to being vaccinated.

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