KARACHI: After almost a year of unprecedented devastating blow to the global health, economic and social systems by Covid-19, the WHO has approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency authorization use.

Several other countries are opting for locally produced vaccines. The WHO recommended Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in late December and emphasized on their universal coverage. It has also allowed the Unicef and Pan American Health Organisation to distribute the vaccine to poor countries.

A flood of doubts and misinformation about the efficacy of the vaccines has overwhelmed the social media platforms. Several questions are being raised: Do we need to wear mask and maintain social distancing after getting vaccinated? Would schools, playgrounds, malls, hotels reopen, would there be a quick return to normal pre Covid-19 life of unrestricted travel and business after the vaccine is administered? Could the lethal virus rebound with more virulence? Concerns are also being raised that if the restrictions continue even after being vaccinated, then what is the benefit.

According to experts, all avenues of safety against the virus must continue to be used. The vaccine may reduce the spread of infection within communities. But the wearing of mask and social distancing would still help oneself and protect others from its spread. The vaccine boosts immunity and the body would be prepared to confront the virion successfully after vaccination. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, live virus is not present in the vaccines allowed for the US which therefore cannot trigger the disease. Thereby the vaccine on its own would not cause the pandemic infection.

All the vaccines help and prepare the immune system to identify and defend against the foreign agent. Like any vaccine, the one being deployed against Covid-19 could also cause mild symptoms like fever which are indicative of body’s readiness to attack the virus. However, it takes a few weeks after the administration of the vaccine for the immune system to fully defend against the virus. Since it takes some weeks for the body’s defence mechanism to robustly fight the lethal virus, thereby it is possible that someone might still get infected by Covid-19 despite being vaccinated.

It has been determined in the US through clinical trials that the vaccine turns the viral load test for Covid-19 negative. However some antibodies may show positive presence after the vaccination. The positive antibody test manifests previous viral infection against which the body’s defence mechanism has become active. However those who contracted the Covid-19 infection may still need the vaccination as the Covid-19 can strike again causing serious health hazards.

The experts have not been able to understand as to how long a person can stay immune from any future infection of the disease after contracting the virus once and this will take longer time to determine with more statistics to back up the evidence. The resultant immunity level after Covid-19 infection varies from person to person. But some evidence has shown that natural resistance against the virus does not last long. Both the natural immunity and the bolstered defence mechanism are both critically important in the wake of the vaccination.

The range of viral effects on the human body are variable. Some have recovered after mild infection, others suffered long term health impact, while several others simply did not survive. The vaccine, however, does not cause any change in the DNA. The mRNA vaccines, recommended in the US, help our cells build a harmless ‘spike protein’ which stimulates body’s immunity but never penetrates the nuclei where the DNA is stored therefore it is harmless to the DNA.

It is understood that the benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is that those vaccinated gain the protection of ever getting sick with COVID-19. However, it produces certain side effects like fever, body trembling, muscle ache and exhaustion that are normal with any other vaccines.

But, there is a chance like in all other vaccines that it may cause serious allergic reaction, but those are minimal. If one is allergic to certain allergens, then it is always advisable to consult a physician before the vaccine is inoculated.

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