GOPIO Manhattan Chapter Conducts Seminar to Educate Public on Covid-19, Vaccines
Seen at a virtual seminar on Covid-19 conducted Feb. 26 by GOPIO’s Manhattan chapter (top row, from l to r): Speaker Dr. Hana Akselrod, GOPIO international coordinator-at-large Dr. Asha Samant and GOPIO Manhattan vice president Dr. Vimal Goyle. (Bottom row, from l to r): GOPIO Manhattan president Shivender Sofat, GOPIO Indian American chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham and moderator Dr. Arnab Ghosh. (photo provided)
India-West Staff Reporter
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. Amidst all this, the distribution and administration of the Covid vaccines has given people hope, but there are several unanswered questions and some skepticism about the efficacy of the vaccines.
Second in a series of webinars, a discussion organized virtually Feb. 26 by the Global Organization of Persons of Indian Origin’s Manhattan chapter in collaboration with the Indian Consulate in New York provided answers to some of these questions.
Attended by people from around the globe, the webinar, led by Hana Akselrod, M.D., MPH, attempted to answer questions on the pandemic, how it spreads and ways to prevent and mitigate the spread.
Currently an assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Akselrod, during an hour-long presentation, provided an overview of the epidemic and the efficacy of the vaccines.
The best way to beat Covid, she said, is by following the common preventable methods recommended by the CDC, including hand hygiene, masking, social distancing, ventilating, and being prepared to take a step back. “Vaccination will give herd immunity, if 60 percent of the population is immunized,” she said. However, if the efficacy of the vaccine is less than 100 percent, more people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.”
She also explained how the virus spreads thorough the Spike protein. Multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants are circulating globally, she said.
She said: “Now, we are more concerned about the variants, which have not impacted much as of now. Low income, lack of education and lack of access to medical care are some of the causes of disparity in Covid infection and mortality rates.”
To understand how COVID-19 vaccines work, it helps to first look at how our bodies fight illness, Akselrod pointed out. “When germs, such as the virus that causes COVID-19, invade our bodies, they attack and multiply. This invasion, called an infection, is what causes illness. Virus can affect all parts of the body. Inflammation, heart disease and lungs mostly impacted. Inflammatory damage process that may cause blood clots.”
While assuring the audience that COVID-19 vaccines can help our bodies develop immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19 without having to get the illness, she said, “Different types of vaccines work in different ways to offer protection, but with all types of vaccines, the body is left with a supply of ‘memory’ T-lymphocytes as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus in the future.”
To a question on which is the best of the three vaccines available in the U.S., she said, “The best vaccine is the one that is available to you now.”
On the reactions to the vaccine, Akselrod said, “Mostly they have found to be safe with minor side effects with some larger effects, most of which are not life threatening. CDC has an app to report the reactions to vaccine.”
While admitting that there are many who are skeptical about the vaccines among the scientific community and the general public, she stressed the need for effective communication and educating the public.
She also pointed out that vaccines are not causing infertility among women. “There is no proof to it,” she said.
In his opening remarks, Consul General of India in New York Randhir Kumar Jaiswal congratulated GOPIO for organizing the webinar. While acknowledging the challenges faced by people due to the coronavirus, Jaiswal expressed hope, saying, “There is optimism in the New Year and we hope to put this pandemic away.”
He also praised GOPIO and its leadership for their many initiatives. “GOPIO has helped NRIs in several ways, facilitating travel, organizing prescription medicine and providing living accommodation to many stranded due to Covid. I am appreciative and thank GOPIO for their constant efforts to be on the forefront,” he was quoted as saying in a press release.
Jaiswal and Dr. Thomas Abraham, chairman of GOPIO International, also pointed out the role of India in supplying vaccines to other nations.
The Q/A session was moderated by Dr. Arnab Ghosh, a life member at GOPIO Manhattan and an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.