Several of my doctor colleagues and non-doctor neighbors that I meet daily, are skeptical about the safety and efficacy regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. The first phase of vaccination includes vaccinating the doctors and healthcare professionals. However, even amongst the doctor community, there is deep mistrust regarding the vaccine. Honestly, at first, even I had my doubts, but gradually shed my inhibition and went ahead for vaccination. Here is an account of what went inside my head and how I overcame my doubts to get vaccinated.
3 months before the vaccine day, I said to my neighbours that “the vaccine will be extremely difficult to be mass produced, if we go by media reports.” A month before the vaccination, I said to myself that I will probably wait it out for a few months and see how it goes with others. Two weeks before the vaccination, I said I may take the vaccine because many of my colleagues are vaccinated and have posted their happy photos. A week before vaccination when no major side effects were reported, I said to myself I will definitely get vaccinated. Two days before vaccination, a colleague reported that it can definitely cause side effects, but the head of my Orthopaedic department assured me that thousands have been vaccinated in our hospital but there have been no major side effects.
On the day of the vaccination, I reached the centre at 9.30 am, waited for only 20 minutes and got vaccinated, clicked a selfie, experienced no side effect for 30 minutes at the centre. Even 12 hours later, there were no side effects. However, 24 hours later, I started to feel mild weakness and lethargy, which went away after 48 and 72 hours. I was back to performing surgeries in the operation theatre in the hospital.
What helped me in shedding my doubts about the vaccine?
If I look back, there were two factors that helped me get rid of my doubts around the vaccine. First factor was an account of several colleagues who reported good experience with the entire process of vaccination in the centre along with the minimal reported side effects and the 2nd factor was that 2 of my colleagues recently went down with COVID-19 infection and had a prolonged period of weakness with persistent symptoms even after being cured. Probably what people should remember is that COVID-19 infection can still occur despite the lower prevalence and it has the potential to cause a serious and prolonged period of convalescence. Would people rather live in the fear of the infection or go ahead, shed their inhibition and get vaccinated?
Here is how the doctors can help now:
The general population looks up to the doctors when it comes to advice regarding their health. In order to persuade the general public about the positive aspects of the vaccine and assuage their fears about any side effects, doctors should set precedents in getting vaccinated. Several doctors are posting their photos of themselves getting vaccinated, on social media. The vaccination moment should be celebrated by posting photos of healthcare worker’s vaccination on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram.
During the general elections, everyone had posted photos of their inked finger after voting. This was a successful strategy to motivate others and should be followed for vaccination as well. Some other ways that the vaccination process could be promoted are: hospitals giving a half-day off for its employees and members, medical associations and local organizations sending messages about the positive effects of the vaccine and the vaccinated recipients coming forward and narrating their good experience with least/ no side effects from the vaccine.
Private clinics and hospitals should also plan on giving discounts in opd consultation to people who are vaccinated. This can also promote the vaccination drive to a great degree. At least 60-80% of the population need to have antibodies to develop the herd immunity. This is the ultimate goal of vaccination and hopefully will be successfully achieved. Social media campaigning will be playing a major role and its mass appeal should be exploited to motivate and encourage people.
Dr Dipit Sahu, M.S.
Consultant Shoulder Surgeon
Sir H.N. Reliance foundation hospital, Jupiter Hospital Thane
Dr RN Cooper hospital, Juhu
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The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.