1. Should we get to select a vaccine of our choice?
Vaccinations have begun across the world.
Right now, people have been urged to get vaccinated, as and when a jab is available to them.
But the one thing beneficiaries can't select is the choice of a vaccine right now.
Given that there is more than one vaccine administered globally, people aren't given the option to choose a vaccine of their choice. Beneficiaries are only told of the jab they got after getting inoculated. There's also some hesitancy, as many believe regarding a “lack of informed choice” that's making people wait to get a vaccine.
Lack of availability right now has also been linked to the shortage of supply. But, as the supply would eventually grow, will people get to make a choice?
Most importantly, will it really benefit you if you do get to make a choice?
2. What are the different choices available?
The world over, different vaccine variants are being used to immunize sections of society against COVID-19.
While India is making use of Covaxin and Covishield (Oxford-Astrazeneca), vaccine models produced by Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna Therapeutics, Johnson and Johnson, CanSino Biologics have also been pressed into use.
Now, most countries have been able to pick and choose the vaccines of their choice and allocations have been made accordingly.
While it does fuel a bit of uncertainty for the beneficiary to not know the jab to expect, it's important to realize that all of the vaccines pushed for approval have good safety and efficacy rates right now.
Doctors also have repeatedly mentioned that all of the vaccines, be it Covaxin or Pfizer's work incredibly well (as per clinical studies) to protect against severity, mortality and as research has shown, may lessen the complications associated with long COVID.
Therefore, people are being advised that getting the option to make a choice would hardly make a difference right now.
3. Will there be benefits to choosing the vaccine?
In the future weeks, there may come a time when we get to select the vaccine of our choice or the way we get it.
The differences, between vaccines, exist but are very small right now.
For example, a big distinction between the vaccines used right now is the manner in which they are made. mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer's) use a novel approach to make antibodies in the body, whereas traditional vaccines (such as Oxford-Astrazeneca, Covaxin) use an inactive strain of the virus to train the immune system.
The vaccines being administrated right now are also mostly two-dose regimes, which work best when injected weeks apart. The only real difference is, while mRNA vaccines have a lower waiting time between the doses, traditional vaccines can be injected upto 6 weeks after the initial dose.
In comparison to them, Johnson and Johnson's unique one-dose vaccine, which has just been recently won nods for usage may be a better selling point and a better option to choose when it is made available.
As for the side-effects, almost all of the COVID-19 vaccines are known to cause similar-ranging reactions which can be mild or moderate.
4. Are there any downsides?
It's important to remember that there could be downsides to it too.
We have just surpassed the one-year mark of the pandemic and the vaccines which have been rolled out are quite experimental, never seen before. Therefore, right now, even as safe as vaccines have been found to be, we should not remain too sure about how effective, or long-lasting they are. Contrasting evidence, pinning one above the other is observed every passing day.
Logistical and supply chain problems may also complicate matters for those who do wish to get a choice, say, want the Pfizer shot over the Oxford one. One vaccine may be more suitable for a section, demographically or medically. mRNA shot transportation may not be suitable for hot, humid countries or poorer nations.
Therefore, any shot available right now is a better alternative than getting no shot.
5. Should you really postpone for a better choice?
Speaking of the benefits, the real pros of getting to choose a vaccine would be for the ones who do know that they are susceptible to some form of severe complications from a certain vaccine.
That being said, there's no clear reason to postpone getting the jab.
The message doctors and medical experts are sending across is for people to get the vaccine as and when it is made available to them, instead of waiting for a better choice.
A vaccine shot now, whatever is available to you is better than waiting for a different shot. Not only can the vaccine work to cut down your odds of catching the infection again, on a community level, but it can also help lower down the spread and transmission. This is also one of the reasons why vaccination norms are being relaxed in states experiencing scary surges of the infection again.
Not only are the trade-offs between vaccines on the lower side, but almost all vaccines are also equally safe and effective against COVID-19 and have passed neccessary evaluation tests.
6. Could offering choice scale up immunization?
Right now, even as millions have been inoculated, the immunization rates are still low.
Only when a large section of people will be vaccinated, will we be able to get to community-level herd immunity. Many experts believe that offering people a choice may help drive us to the point faster.
Psychologically, letting people make the choice for themselves benefits them as they get to make their own medical choices, and in turn, comply with the rules. Offering a choice-based system may also help more people turn up to get the vaccine, which is still polarized to an extent and allow for community-wide immunity.
7. What should beneficiaries know?
While largely, there is no solid reason for you to skip on vaccination, beneficiaries should also be cross-checking whether or not a vaccine would work well on them or not.
For example, some vaccines may be a tad bit riskier for those on blood-thinning medications, or suffering from immuno-compromised diseases. The vaccine would work sufficiently well on them, but the risk of experiencing some side-effects could be higher. Therefore, such facts should be confirmed by the beneficiary by checking factsheets and other neccessary guidelines.
As long as you get your shots on time, do not delay or skip doses, and remain well-informed, rest assured, your vaccine would work well and safeguard you against COVID-19.
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