So far, the UK has recorded over 3,998,665 cases of coronavirus infections. Out of these, more than 115,529 deaths were witnessed, with the number of patients who have recovered standing at 2,056,021.
So dire has the situation been that the country has had to be placed on lockdown. Twice.
However, the silver lining is that despite the escalating cases, there are vaccines in the offing, which promise to save a lot more lives and forestall future infections.
Nonetheless, most people are still in the dark about how Covid 19 test kits and vaccines work, whether they should have faith in them, and what the consequences of not getting vaccinated are.
We look at all these issues in this feature and discuss answers to other frequently asked questions on vaccines.
Vaccines are biological preparations designed to help the body build resistance to specific infections.
The term ‘vaccine’ is ordinarily used interchangeably with ‘inoculation’ as both mean the same thing.
The best vaccines take the form of active immunization, which protect an individual from the repeated incidence of a particular infection.
Active vaccines may be developed in two ways.
Thus, the antibodies formed by the body act as foot soldiers and fight any future recurrence of the illness.
Where artificial vaccines are used, controlled amounts of the disease-causing pathogen are introduced into a person’s body to provoke the body to produce the corresponding antibodies.
Persons who have been exposed to Coronavirus have been shown to naturally develop these antibodies. To learn about your Covid-19 antibody status, you can secure Covid-19 antigen test kits from handstations.co.uk.
How Vaccines Work
Natural immunization is seen to occur in cases such as chickenpox, where a person who recovers from the illness develops specific antibodies that fight the illness-causing pathogens in the future.
In such a case, the person is said to have developed a natural immunity to the disease.
On the other hand, where a vaccine is administered, what happens is that the individual receives an injection containing the antibodies designed to fight against a specific disease.
In this case, a person vaccinated against measles, for example, is placed in a position to fight the pathogens causing measles should his body ever encounter them.
The Coronavirus vaccine is designed to work in a similar fashion. It is intended to enable the body to recognize the SARs-CoV-2 virus and fight it using antibodies.
It is a smart way to fight an illness without necessarily having to fall ill.
Where a mass of people falls ill, recover, and produce antibodies, they are said to develop ‘herd immunity.’
However, the WHO encourages countries to facilitate herd immunity through artificial vaccination.
This is because, with artificial inoculation, the target population has better chances at lifelong immunity as opposed to the trial-and-error method of natural immunity (which might leave some members of the community exposed).
When it comes to the Coronavirus vaccine, the approved varieties are all being administered in two doses. The second dose is administered 14 days after the first round.
Vaccine Approval in the UK
In the United Kingdom, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the body tasked with the duty of ensuring that all vaccines (and other medicines) are safe for use.
The Agency does this by regulating the clinical trials for the vaccine and approving those that are proven to work.
Clinical trials must also receive a nod from the NHS Research and Ethics Committee and from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) before they can be undertaken.
So far, the MHRA has approved the following vaccines for use in the UK:
Who Needs Vaccination
All persons need to be vaccinated against Coronavirus. Nonetheless, the government is giving priority to particular groups of people.
Presently, the government aims to administer vaccines to over 15 million people in the UK, with persons aged over 70 and healthcare workers being prioritized.
The reason for this is that these two categories of people constitute high-risk individuals due to their heightened risk of contracting the disease.
So far, 12 million people have received the first round of vaccines.
Vaccines and Immunity
As mentioned earlier, the Covid-19 vaccines come in two doses.
According to the WHO, there is a relatively good immune response after the first dose of the vaccine, and the second round only serves to ramp up this immunity.
However, as of now, the WHO is yet to ascertain how long this immunity lasts.
It is also worth noting that a person can still test positive for Covid-19 soon after inoculation.
That is because the body may take up to two weeks to develop the antibodies that facilitate immunity.
Consequently, it is possible to contract the disease during the two-week window, and therefore, inoculation should not be presumed to result in immediate immunity.
Effects of Failure to Vaccinate
A general mistrust against inoculation may lead some people to opt out of getting the Coronavirus vaccine.
Groups colloquially known as the ‘antivaxers’ have led spirited campaigns against the efficacy of vaccines in the past.
While some of the concerns raised may seem valid in theory, most of these arguments fall by the wayside in light of scientific research and want of scientific backing.
Failure in vaccination against Covid -19 can only mean one thing- the continued prevalence of the disease. So far, it has been a losing battle without the aid of Covid vaccines.
But no matter where your stand on vaccination is, the best remedy against Covid -19 remains the observance of the WHO protocols of wearing a mask, social distancing, and regular hygiene.