In Kashmir, patients fear COVID vaccine; admin says side effects ‘rare’

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The presence of co-morbidities or long-term ailments among people in Jammu and Kashmir is leading to fear towards the COVID-19 vaccination among them even as the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) says that the vaccine is safe with “very few cases of negative side effects, which are rarest”.

The scare persists even as reluctance towards the COVID-19 vaccine has largely subsided and a large section of people have been vaccinated in the region, where more than seven million doses have been administered so far.

Dilshad Ara, a resident of Srinagar, is one among those who is scared of getting vaccinated as she suffers from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) for the past six months. 

Ara’s medical condition has caused doubts in her family about whether she should get the vaccine jab.

“I asked the doctor, who is a physician if I can get her vaccinated, he asked us to go for it. But when I asked another doctor, who is also my uncle, he said never go for the vaccination at all,” Umama, Ara’s daughter, said. “There was a big confusion and so we didn’t get her vaccinated till now,” she said.

Kashmir was hit by the first wave of COVID-19 in March last year and it was contained by several months of lockdown. The second wave, however, originated in April this year when the administration hesitated to impose an immediate lockdown.

Dr. Mir Faisal, a Srinagar-based Pulmonologist, says that even if there are people with such ailments they should go for a vaccine. “There were some cases of clotting or side effects but that is rare,” said Faisal.

“But those things caused fear among people. If anyone is even on treatment for something, with doctor’s consultation, they should go ahead with a vaccine, anyone which is available.” 

The vaccination process in Kashmir began in January this year and was initially limited to healthcare workers and then frontline workers and was then gradually allowed for various age groups. Though there was initial hesitancy among some sections about the vaccine, the process has been largely successful.

Nafhat Naqshbandi, a research scholar from Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), said that she had to consult a doctor for her mother, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis before administering her the vaccine.

“The doctor advised my mother to get her blood tested to check her platelet count and ensure that it is above fifty thousand before she takes the vaccine,” said Naqshbandi. “My mother had to stop the drug dexamethasone two weeks prior to vaccination and resume it only after two weeks of getting vaccinated.” 

Despite the scare among several people across Kashmir, the government has been advising people to consult doctors before administering the vaccine. 

Mir Mushtaq, a spokesperson of the health department, told The Kashmir Walla that people should not be worried about any negative complications of the vaccine as very few cases have come up with side effects. 

“We should see the positive side of the picture,” he said. “We should see that globally those who have been vaccinated are showing very good resilience and fight against COVID whereas those not vaccinated are still susceptible to COVID.” 

Mushtaq, however, said that people who have been taking medications for a long time or those who face hypertension should consult a doctor before getting vaccinated.

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