The Covidshield vaccine to immunize against the Covid-19 disease has been administered in Manipur since January 16, and it should bolster the immune system of those who are getting vaccinated, if all goes well. But while this is the latest development in the state, already a debate is raging in other parts of the country as Covidshield is only one of a safer vaccine being used in the government’s drive to immunize everybody. The other vaccine named Covaxin has not yet completed the third phase clinical trials, though it’s already in use, causing some amount of confusion and doubts in the minds of those getting vaccinated, regarding the safety of the vaccine. The doubts have been fuelled by the instance of two deaths occurring in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka and a number of adverse reactions after the vaccination was given, and also the death of 29 persons away from the country in Norway after Covid vaccination.
Both the companies involved, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, as makers of the Covidshield and Covaxin vaccine respectively, have said there is a certain amount of risk involved and persons with allergy, fever, etc., should not take the vaccine. But the informed consent required according to law from those taking the vaccination has not been properly addressed and at best it’s a kind of self-certification by those getting vaccinated, without attention from experts. The main argument against this certification is how a person would be aware he or she is allergic to something which he or she might not have been exposed to yet, or simply put how anyone would know what he is allergic to. It’s almost never that a person might know what he’s allergic to. Also why is the Covaxin put in use although the clinical trial data will come out only in March? When 50 million doses of Covidshield are available and that’s the amount that is required till March for 30 million domestic healthcare and frontline workers, and for export to other countries, why was the Covaxin put in circulation thus becoming a reason for discrimination against those who would have, without the proper data being available presently for Covaxin, liked to opt for the Covidshield vaccine instead of Covaxin. There’s a counter argument to this too that says that the immediate need is to contain the pandemic and the emergency approval for the under-trial vaccine has been given as a stand-by, as one cannot wait for 6-7 months in a pandemic to prove the long-term safety of the vaccine.
Considering the new developments over the two vaccines and the unclear status of its efficacy, an event that took place in Imphal this week could prove to be significant, if we are to consider local conditions in Manipur, and how far we may be able to ward off this virus and keep the people healthy to fight any future infection by the Coronavirus. It’s a small step and is nowhere comparable to the government’s mass vaccination drive, but an Ayush Plus Immune Booster Campaign and Distribution program was launched by National Designer and Managing Director of the Aruna Academy of Creative Arts, Arunapyari Salam, under the sponsorship of the 50-bedded Integrated Ayush Hospital at Lamphelpat. The ‘Covid-19 Awareness Campaign and Distribution of Ayush Medicine and the Ayush Plus Immune Booster’ was a low key programme held at the State Guest House at Imphal and among the campaigning dignitaries were the Chief Guest, Dr. Ng Mema Devi, the Medical Superintendent of the Ayush Hospital at Lamphelpat, Ayurvedic Physician Dr. Yumnam Dhanesori Devi, Homeopathic Physician Dr. Ronibala Chingangbam and Unani Physician Dr. Ajima Begum.
Ayush is an upcoming branch of medicine that has different treatment methods, some practiced since ancient times. The main points discussed during the campaign by Arunapyari Salam were that, people are suffering in Manipur since the start of the pandemic and the government should make it a point to protect the health of the public by making various food supplements and medicines, including Ayush medicines, available to them through the Covid Care Centres. Some of the measures detailed by Ayurveda, which the Ayurveda expert Dr. Yumnam Dhanesori said would stop the virus from affecting the immune system are, using Til (locally Thoiding) oil as a nasal drop to trap the virus in the nasal passage, using Sesame oil or Til oil solution to gargle the throat area to prevent the virus from going beyond the throat, and also steaming with Tulasi or local Nongmankha leaves if the virus is already in the respiratory tract or lungs. Other supplements that are effective to a large extent in improving immunity, which the Ayurveda doctor prescribed were, Chyawanprash which is also available in sugar free packs, and Golden milk or warm milk with turmeric at bed time.
The Ayush immune booster food supplement and Ayush system of medicine is being encouraged by the state Chief Minister N Biren Singh and also by the India government, according to Medical Superintendent Ng Mema Devi who has travelled to the districts, including Churachandpur, along with the Manipur State Commission for Women (MSCW) Chairperson, Dr. M Binota and distributed the Ayush immune booster and medicine at various places. The Ayush Hospital at Lamphelpat is also offering free diagnosis and treatment without Covid test formalities at their 50-bedded facility, Dr. Ng Mema Devi said while asking everyone to avail of this free services, which include blood tests and a soon to become functional Ultrasound testing facility.
The main emphasis of the program was to put across the message of the importance of improving immunity against falling sick due to any bacteria or virus attacking the body. And the various medicines, medicinal indigenous plants and herbal plants that were discussed are meant to prevent just that along with a combination of other accompanying therapies. For instance along with taking medicine, the homeopathy treatment also prescribes at least half an hour of exercise for relieving joint pain, drinking 8 to 10 glasses of warm water, 7/8 hours of sleep, keeping away from smoking or alcohol, and yoga/meditation for those who have mental stress conditions. The homeopathy expert, Dr. Ronibala Chingangbam who explained this method of treatment said that she herself had been following this regimen and also been on constant Covid duty at the quarantine centres, etc., without having any health problems. The regimen, she said is to be followed along with the normal SOPs of hand washing, wearing masks and social distancing, and also one must remember to eat at least some amount of food every day, and not fast on any day, to make the treatment work.
An interesting aspect of Ayush medicine was discussed by the Unani Physician, Dr. Ajima Begum who informed that Unani is an Arabic term and this medicinal practice had been in wide use in the Roman Empire, and later in 12th-13th Century it was brought to India by the Muslim invaders. Later, after the British came to India, it became less practiced. There are not many practitioners of the Unani system in Manipur at present, she said. The Unani system of treatment is based on identifying the humor and temperament of the patient and though it doesn’t claim to be a direct cure for Covid, it can certainly prevent Covid. The six main factors under this treatment method, which Dr. Ajima Begum described, are various qualities of air like purity, ventilation, avoiding polluted places, etc.; proper food and drinks; hours of sleep and wakefulness; repose of body, meaning rest for body; repose of the mind; and functions of retention and evacuation, meaning the goodness of what you eat and timely evacuation to keep the body healthy. Among the herbs which can be used as immune boosters for improving immunity, Dr. Ajima Begum said are garlic, ginger, local sanamanbi seeds, local tinsibi seeds and ashwagandha powder or tablets which are available from Himalaya and Dabur companies. Also indoor fumigation with sandalwood and camphor smoke is very popular in the Unani system, the Unani doctor said.
The campaign was an eye opener to the wealth of medicinal data available in the local systems of medicine, especially relevant at these times when long-term vaccines are not yet fully validated for the Covid-19 infection. The time-tested methods of Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Unani systems which are in fact very popular all over India and in other countries, is certainly a solid and viable option for holistic health, although unnoticed many times. A lot remains to be explored in the extensive Ayush system of medicine for those who want to keep their body and mind healthy.