A message attributed to a Nobel laureate, claiming that mass death was sure to follow mass vaccination, triggered panic earlier this week. Medical experts Metrolife spoke to trashed the message.
Dr Subramanian Swaminathan, director of infectious diseases department at a private hospital, says only a part of the message is true, in that RNA viruses adapt and survive.
“Consider the influenza virus, which keeps adapting periodically to evade our immune system to become something different. Just like any other living being, a virus also wants to survive. Some have a greater ability to change than others. A significantly different variant compared to the older one can occur,” he says.
Vaccines can push a virus to mutate, but the message overstates the risks, he believes.
“For this to happen, a huge population has to be vaccinated in a short time. In India, only about three per cent have been vaccinated with both doses. At least 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated for such a pressure to accelerate the mutation process. Concerns about deaths due to the vaccine in two years are unfounded,” he says. Also, most mutations die out, he avers.
Dr Raghu J, infectious disease specialist, says mutations are a concern, but not all vaccines trigger fatal mutations.
“If antibodies are suboptimal, instead of a virus getting destroyed in a cell, it will start multiplying. It was seen in the dengue and Zika viruses, so the concerns are not unfounded, but the Covid-19 vaccines were developed with minimal or no risk,” he says.
Prof C Durga Rao, virologist and retired professor, department of microbiology and cell biology, Indian Institute of Science, says the post is “ridiculous and absurd”.
“Mutations constantly occur, but not all can be counted,” he says. If the theory in the message were true, the polio vaccine, administered multiple times, would have caused a great deal of harm, he explains.
What message said...
French virologist and Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier believes all vaccinated people will die within two years from infections caused by coronavirus mutations, a social media forward claimed. Many virologists have since rubbished the claim.
‘Data related to vaccines should be accessible’
All vaccines carry a risk of adverse effects, which is why an observation time of 30 minutes is mandatory, says Dr Swati Rajagopal, consultant, infectious diseases at a private hospital.
She says that till date, no serious complications have been observed among people who have taken the Covid-19 vaccines.
“Data related to vaccines should be available in the public domain for citizens to make informed choices. Social media must be penalised for spreading fake information. Also, government bodies should engage with the public in meaningful ways and adopt strategies such as slogan-writing competitions,” she suggests.