In these difficult, uncertain and taxing times, nothing can be more reassuring than the news of the arrival of vaccine. After the roll-out of the first dose, the second wouldn’t come too soon. And that, understandably, gave rise to doubts and concerns among the people. Now that we have enough vaccine for the second dose, there are things we need to understand about the vaccines and their timing in the right perspective.
The time between the first dose of the vaccine and second, now we know, need not be 14 of 16 weeks. In fact, the longer the duration between the first and second shot, the stronger the chances of boosting our immunity or protection against the virus that has bullied us into a corner. There is so much more to know about the virus but medical and scientific research is getting its finger around the nature and behaviour of the virus finally.
The questions and misgivings are valid, but only until new facts shine the light on new developments. Nations and governments across the world are now going for a mix of Pfizer and AstraZeneca because the combination is found to be producing a more potent immune response against the virus SARS-CoV-2. Our reservations, coming mostly from uninformed sources so, must be laid by the wayside.
Com-Cov, an Oxford Vaccine Group that studies the use of different combinations of the Covid-19 vaccines for the first and second immunisation doses has confirmed, among others, that an AstraZeneca dose followed by Pfizer induces higher antibodies and T cell responses than Pfizer followed by AstraZeneca; both of these mixes induce higher antibodies than two doses of AZ; the highest antibody response is seen after two doses of Pfizer and the highest T cell response from AstraZeneca followed by Pfizer.
What’s more, the World Health Organization experts say that it is not only “safe” to mix and match AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, but is also recommended in the view of the general shortage and the benefits the mix has proven to bring. And because the vaccines work pretty much in the same way, the longer gap between the two doses, the better. Science tells us now that extension of dose interval, up to 45 weeks between the first and second dose, is found to further improve our immune response.
The point that we need to understand is that we now have vaccine doses enough for the second nationwide roll-out programme. We are in and at the right time. Thanks must go to Health Minister Dechen Wangmo and the Government in particular for arranging the vaccines right at the time. The journey from vial to arm must not take time but what we must be acutely aware of is that even all these initiatives and facilities will not be enough.
We will still have to wear our masks and clean our hands. There is a long way before we can say the virus is no longer a serious threat.