Vaccination: the only way out

According to State Immunisation Officer, Dr Qazi Haroon, the vaccination doses will be forwarded to different areas so that they are able to start the vaccination drive along with other states on 16 January. Photo: Mubashir Khan/ GK

I am writing in response to a news story recently published by Greater Kashmir, titled “Kashmir’s 83% healthcare workers opt out of Covid-19 vaccine, claims doctors’ body”. This article has highlighted the poor uptake of the vaccine in the valley and as a Kashmiri, has caused me great concern.  COVID -19 is a deadly virus; more than 2.4 million people have died from it across the world, with many more suffering seriously from this illness. Vaccination against this virus is the only hope that mankind has to eradicate it; hence mass vaccination has started with vigour across the globe. In these challenging times, it is absolutely essential that Kashmiris are encouraged to seek vaccination in order to prevent the spread of this virus to protect themselves and their communities.

I address the rest of my letter to my fellow Kashmiris. I urge the healthcare workers at Government Medical College Srinagar and its associated hospitals to reconsider their rejection of vaccination for the following reasons. Firstly, vaccination will help protect yourself and those around you, including your vulnerable patients, friends and family. Secondly, your vaccination will provide a good example to your fellow Kashmiris and will encourage them to seek the vaccine, thereby spreading immunity amongst the Kashmiri population and protecting our people from sickness and death. Thirdly, by showing hesitancy to vaccines, the desire by powers that be to implement a mass vaccination drive might dwindle. By expressing hesitancy to take the vaccine, Kashmiri healthcare workers are putting their lives at risk, as well as the lives of their patients, their families and their community.

I understand some of you may be reluctant to take the vaccine due to misinformation and fake news that has been spread globally regarding the efficacy and/or safety of vaccination. However, these conspiracies have been thoroughly debunked by experts and relevant authorities as such as the World Health Organisation. Some people have recently cited Norwegian care home deaths as attributable to COVID-19 vaccination. This is highly misleading and damaging. Both the Norwegian health authority and World Health Organisation (WHO) have confirmed that there is no causal link between these deaths and the vaccine. Anti-vaxers are indulging in scaremongering about the vaccine in media, in the form of written articles and YouTube videos. My plea to you is to seek information only from the credible sources, like WHO.

Vaccines have helped eradicate diseases for centuries, including smallpox, polio and diphtheria. In my country of residence, the UK, 15 million people (most of them over-65) have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and they have suffered no harmful side effects. There have certainly been no fatalities, linked to COVID-19 vaccination, in the U.K or anywhere else in the world. Globally the number of vaccines delivered is increasing at a fast pace, when I wrote this letter, more than 173 million doses had been delivered and I know by the time you read it, the number will have gone up by several hundred thousand, which in itself reflects how actively people are seeking it.

There is no reason to fear vaccination – I urge you to protect yourselves and your communities by accepting the vaccine. Please think carefully and don’t miss out on a chance of injecting hope into your communities.

Dr Afifa Qazi IS Executive Medical Director, U.K