September 30, 2021
The pandemic caused by the spread of the Covid-19 virus around the world has led to panic and anxiety along with rampant misinformation and suspicions. While some suspicions are based on information gathered from various sources including the media, many others grow out of doubts alone. One such opinion being talked about and discussed especially on social media is about the efficacy and effectiveness of the vaccines being offered against the Covid-19 virus. Are Covid-19 vaccines and Influenza vaccines the same? Are they equally effective? Are Covid-19 vaccines reliable and effective in curbing the spread of the pandemic when compared to the flu vaccine?
Firstly, let’s look at some of the similarities between Covid-19 and influenza. They are both respiratory diseases that can cause mild to severe breathing problems as they progress in the body; they both are highly contagious, and without a doubt, can spread rapidly through a population. Also, some of the symptoms of both are similar: coughing, fever, body aches and tiredness are similar symptoms. But, more or less, there ends the commonality between these two infectious diseases. The viruses that cause Covid-19 and the flu are different and therefore the medical treatment and the vaccine guard used to protect against them must also be different.
Influenza is caused by viruses of type A, B, C and D, whereas Covid-19 is caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Unbeknown to many around the world, a fact gives hope for the future even when we are still gripped in fear amid talk of a third wave of coronavirus infections sweeping across the world. Covid-19 mutations per genetic material in a year are far less than that of the influenza virus. This means that the mutation rates are lower in the Covid-19 virus when compared to the flu virus. Also, as per WHO the serial interval for the Covid-19 virus is more than that of the latter, meaning the infection rate is higher for influenza. Whereas the drivers of influenza were majorly children, coronavirus is likely to affect mostly adults.
The vaccine development, effectiveness and availability are based on the spread of the variants and how faster the virus mutates. As observed earlier, the flu mutations are faster and larger which makes developing vaccines for new variants difficult. Both vaccines aim at preventing loss of life and give a time gap for the immune system to respond effectively to the foreign agent. How quickly the body and the immune system react can help in bringing down infection severity and fatality rate of Covid-19 and flu.
The Covid-19 vaccines were developed in the initial period especially during the first wave of the pandemic. This means that the research and works put into developing the vaccines were targeted mainly to fight the SARS-CoV-2. The genetic mutations and strains of the virus might not have been tested for the effectiveness of the vaccine against them. The good news is so far the vaccines have shown to be quite effective at reducing the risk of Covid-19 and preventing severe infection and death against most variants. With an enormous amount of data coming in from all parts of the world, the scientific world is hopeful that the mutation rate of coronavirus will remain far less compared to the influenza-causing virus. This will make developing vaccines quicker against every coronavirus variant a real possibility.
The flu and the vaccines against the flu have been here for quite some time. Now and then as the pattern and behaviour of the influenza virus change, the efficiency of the vaccines also changes and new development in vaccine research has to be relied on. It is yet to be seen whether the scientific community would have to develop new vaccines to tackle newer variants of the virus or whether present vaccines can provide enough protection. If we were to compare the effectiveness of vaccines, Influenza vaccines range between 40-60 per cent, whereas the different types of Covid-19 vaccines being administered around the world range between 65-95 per cent.
In a nutshell, the Covid-19 vaccines are seen to be highly effective even when compared to the flu vaccine. It is only a matter of time that the current overall efficacy of the vaccine would be surpassed by their newer, better performing versions and help in preventing the spread of the virus and all its variants.