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COVID-19 Vaccination: All Your Doubts Answered

Mar 01, 2021

India has started the massive vaccination drive against COVID-19. There are many doubts and fears regarding the vaccine and as a result people are delaying vaccination. The purpose of this article is to throw some light on the whole process of vaccination and allay unnecessary rumors and fears regarding it.

Going about it in an extremely systematic manner, the health care professionals will be vaccinated first given their high probability of exposure to the virus. The health care professionals constitute around 1 crore. They will be followed by the front like workers (like the police force) who have been working tirelessly since the pandemic started. This second group also covers around 1 crore people. The third group to be vaccinated would be those who are vulnerable like the elderly and people with comorbidities. The number of people in this third category constitute a whopping 27 crores. The government will segregate people with the help of the date of birth available on the voter’s ID card. Those who were born before January 1st, 1971 will all be covered. The Central Government, the State Government, the Corporation, the Directorate of Public Health and the Ministry of Health are all involved in coordinating this mammoth task. Very specific guidelines have been given and all hospitals and health care professionals are being kept informed.

Covaxin and Covishield  

World over 9 vaccines against coronavirus are being administered. In India, we have Covaxin and Covishield both of which use non-replicating viral vectors. Covishield is a viral vector-based vaccine while Covaxin is a particulate vaccine. Both vaccines will be administered as injections and will require two doses with an interval of around a month in between. It is to be noted that the first and second doses both will have to be of the same vaccine. Both vaccines have an efficacy of over 50%. Once vaccinated, people will be protected for a minimum period of 6 months.

Coronavirus is a mutagenic virus which keeps changing its structure. Hence in the future people might have to get vaccinated again to protect themselves from different strains of the virus. In that case, the vaccine will be changed slightly to deal with the newer strains. Hence it is of a certainty that multiple doses at multiple times will be required.

Covaxin or Covishield?

In India, we are fortunate enough to manufacture our own vaccines. 80% of the vaccine production is happening in India. We are indeed the vaccine capital of the world. We will not only have enough to eventually cover our entire population, but as of now we also have enough to donate as well as to sell to other nations. Between Covaxin and Covishield there is nothing much to choose as both vaccines are good with around the same efficacy. Both the vaccines can be taken and there is no cause for concern.

Trial Phases for a Vaccine

Phase 1: In this phase a certain number of people will be given the vaccine to test for safety.

Phase 2: Here people will be given the vaccine to test for the formation of antibodies.

Phase 3: This is done to test how effective the vaccine is and whether it will be successful in preventing the virus.

Both Covaxin and Covishield have completed the first 2 phases successfully and both are completely safe. They are also endorsed by our government as well as the ICMR.

Side Effects of the Vaccines

Those who have been vaccinated till now have not reported any extreme side effects. Fever, body pain, soreness at the site of injection, arm and leg pain are the most commonly reported side effects. Fever too is not high grade and stays in the range of 100-100.5 °F. These effects are common among other vaccines (DPT, flu vaccine, MMR, etc.) as well. The side effects can be managed with painkillers and antihistamines. No allergic reaction or rashes because of vaccination have been reported till now.

The Risk Benefit Ratio

The benefits of the vaccination far outweigh the risks. With vaccination we can effectively break the chain of transmission and the much-needed herd immunity will be achieved.

Will Children Be Vaccinated?

Currently there is no plan to vaccinate children. This is because children are not badly affected by coronavirus. 40% of children will not get the virus and the remaining 60%, even if they do get it, will recover easily. Hence children right now are not being given the vaccine. As already mentioned, the senior citizens and people with comorbidities are on the priority list for the vaccine. Vaccinating them is of paramount importance so that children even if they do get infected will not be able to transmit the virus to the adults at home.

Where Do We Get Vaccinated?

As of now, only government hospitals are carrying out the vaccination drive while private hospitals are vaccinating their own health care professionals first. However, depending on the changing needs there might be changes made to this in the future.

The Logistics Behind the Mass Vaccination Drive

The whole of India (Tamil Nadu in particular) has always had a very strong vaccination program. Every year 26 million new born babies are vaccinated; 29 million pregnant women are also vaccinated. Since we are already experienced in carrying out mass immunisations, our COVID vaccination program is also being carried out in a very systematic manner. By dividing the vaccination process into phases, any issues met with can be corrected before moving on to the next phase.

Should the Usage of Face Masks Continue?

Government guidelines recommend that the usage of face masks and hygiene measures like hand washing continue even after vaccination. This is because no vaccine has 100% efficacy and some people may remain vulnerable to the virus even after vaccination. Another reason is that covering our entire population to achieve herd immunity is going to take time and it is definitely in our best interests to continue wearing masks till that happens.

Some Points to Remember:

  • The vaccines are currently not being given to pregnant and lactating women.
  • If a person has fever (or any other illness) at the time of vaccination, it is best to delay the vaccine for a period of a week or so till the person recovers.
  • Alcohol consumption is best avoided during and after vaccination. This is because alcohol lowers a person’s immune response. Since the vaccine works by increasing a person’s immunity, alcohol consumption would defeat the purpose of the vaccine.
  • Though children are not being vaccinated, teenagers and young adults over 18 years might get approval for the vaccine in the future.
  • People who have already been infected with COVID-19 can wait for a period of one month after infection and then take the vaccine. The vaccine will not be given if the patient is suffering from COVID-19 during the time of vaccination.
  • People with food allergy need not fear getting the vaccine. Those with drug allergy should inform the health care officials before taking the vaccine. The health care professionals after taking the patient’s detailed history will decide on whether the vaccine can be administered.
  • People who are receiving injections for other conditions should also keep the health care officials informed of their condition and medications.
  • High Risk Category: People with diabetes, hypertension, heart issues, kidney problems, etc. are all urged to take the vaccine as they are the ones whom the virus affects badly.
  • It would  be wise to continue Universal Prevention- mask, hand hygiene and social distancing’  throughout 2021, and even beyond, till the country and the world are vaccinated.

The fight against COVID-19 started in March last year. Our health care and front-line workers have been battling since then to overcome the pandemic. That the pandemic is now under control is thanks to their efforts. Now it is the people’s turn to play a part in vanquishing the virus by getting vaccinated.  We can be safe together by  getting vaccinated!