What after vaccine shots?

Sixth day into the week-long mass vaccination programme, close to 435,837 Bhutanese have been administered Covishield vaccine. That is almost 88 percent of the eligible population in the country.

Receptiveness and turnout is impressive. It is highly likely that by the time the vaccination programme concludes today, April 2, almost all the 536,000 eligible population will have taken the jab.

While whether to administer or take the vaccine is still being debated among governments and people elsewhere, Bhutan’s decision to go ahead with mass vaccination programme and, successfully at that, shows our willingness and readiness to leave the pandemic and its disruptions behind and move on with new normal.

The success of Bhutan’s mass vaccination programme should be attributed largely to clear-headed leadership from the government. In times of doubt and uncertainty, leading by example is critically important. Vaccination coverage would have been dismally sparse and poor otherwise.

The way the government organised the vaccination programme across the country, given the challenges of distance and rugged terrain, among others, is nothing short of admirable. Appreciation and commendation, not least, must go to the many health professionals and the guardians of peace who have made untold sacrifices since the first Covid-19 case in the country a year ago.

But now the question is: what after the vaccine shots? How do we even know that the vaccine is working?

There have been many complaints about side effects of the vaccine. All of the vaccines in use against the coronavirus cause side effects such as fever, chills, sore throat, headache, nausea, diarrhoea and even pink eye, among others. What these side effects indicate is that our immune system is reacting to the virus. What is more important to understand is that the absence of side effects doesn’t mean that the vaccine has failed to work. Sometimes, it can take a week or even more for the vaccine to start taking effect.

All these bring us to another, equally important, question: are we safe from coronavirus now that we have taken the jab? Medically and scientifically, the answer is both “yes” and “no”. According to well-placed research and studies, “even the best vaccines leave five percent of vaccinated people susceptible.” For some vaccines, that figure is even higher.

What we also know is that there is every chance that Covid-19 could become endemic, which means it, the virus, could always be present in a certain population or region. The bottom line is that getting the vaccine won’t protect us from coronavirus forever.

That’s why, even as we complete the vaccination rounds, our focus on prevention and management is critically necessary. In other words, observing health protocols diligently and sincerely is of utmost importance, maintaining a strong quarantine system besides.

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