As the COVID-19 vaccination is finally going to start in India, there are still doubts in our minds with regards to the efficacy and safety of vaccine and whether actually there is a need to get vaccinated. With so much information and misinformation being circulated on social media, it sometimes becomes difficult to separate facts from false claims.
Whether you choose to get vaccinated or not, it is purely your choice. But it is advisable to get vaccinated.
Here I will discuss the most common questions which we are normally encountering in our day to day life and we hear from our friends and parents in clinics regarding vaccination. All the queries have been answered with latest references from the major reputed world organisations (CDC/WHO/MoFHW India).
- Is it mandatory to take the vaccine? Vaccination for COVID-19 is at present voluntary. Make an informed decision with the information that is provided to you. It is advisable to undergo the complete schedule of COVID-19 vaccine for protecting one-self against this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to the close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers. This is especially important from children’s perspective as till now we don’t have a vaccine for children. The only way to protect them at present is get ourselves vaccinated.
- Will the vaccine be safe as it is being tested and introduced in a short span of time (Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA)/accelerated approval)? There is definitely a doubt circulating in minds of most people about the safety and efficacy as the vaccines have been produced in a very short span of time with trials done on not very large numbers. But the vaccines have been introduced in different countries only after their regulatory bodies have cleared it based on its safety and efficacy. Simultaneously it is also to be remembered that as with any vaccine or drug, there are bound to be few side effects.
- Can a person presently having COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) infection be vaccinated? Infected individuals should defer vaccination for at least 1 month after symptoms resolution. Additionally, current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired.
- Is it necessary for a COVID recovered person to take the vaccine? Yes, it is advisable to receive complete schedule of COVID vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19. This will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease. COVID-19 vaccination should be done regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection or not. A prior antibody testing is not required before vaccination.
- What about the possible side-effects from COVID-19 vaccine? As is true for other vaccines, the common side effects in some individuals could be mild fever, pain, etc. at the site of injection, chills, muscle ache, headache, and malaise . Other serious side effects which are being reported are very rare. You should not defer vaccination hearing about serious side effects which have been reported till now except in case of any history of anaphylaxis (serious allergy) to the products of the vaccine
- How many doses of the vaccine are required and at what intervals? Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule.
- What is the route of the vaccine? The route of all available vaccines is intramuscular.
- When would antibodies develop (when will the vaccine start having its effect)? After taking first dose, after taking second dose, or much later? Protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
- Does one need to follow preventive measures such as wearing a mask, hand sanitization, social distancing after receiving the COVID 19 vaccine? Even after receiving the COVID 19 vaccine, we must continue taking all precautions like use of face cover or masks, hand sanitization and maintain distancing (6 feet).
- If I follow all precautions, is it still necessary to get myself vaccinated? Yes, stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others. Both if done together (precautions + vaccination) will offer the best protection from COVID-19.
- When can I stop wearing mask and avoiding close contact with others after I have been vaccinated? There is not enough information currently available to say that. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. So as said above, its preferable to continue taking all necessary precautions even after you are vaccinated.
- Does immunity after getting COVID 19 infection last longer than protection from the vaccine? The protection someone gains from having an infection (called natural immunity) varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. The duration of immunity acquired after a natural infection to SARS-CoV2 is believed to be 3-6 months only based on the presence of neutralizing antibodies. Also evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Regarding vaccination, we don’t know how long immunity lasts because it is a new vaccine and trials are ongoing regarding the duration of protection it offers.
- Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19? No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in use contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. All of them teach our immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign that the body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination. That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
- After getting a COVID-19 vaccine, will I test positive for COVID-19 on a viral test?No. Neither the recently authorized and recommended vaccines nor the other COVID-19 vaccines currently in clinical trials in the world can cause you to test positive on viral tests, which are used to see if you have a current infection. If your body develops an immune response—the goal of vaccination—there is a possibility you may test positive on some antibody tests. Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus.
- Will a COVID-19 vaccination protect me from getting sick with COVID-19? Yes. COVID-19 vaccination works by teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, and this protects you from getting sick with COVID-19.
- Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA? No. There is this speculation going around that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine might cause a change in the genetic constitution of the individual receiving it. But they do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Messenger RNA vaccines—also called mRNA vaccines—teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 mRNA vaccines work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease.
- Will other vaccines like BCG, MMR, Flu etc. can help prevent COVID infection? Currently, there is no evidence that any existing vaccines will protect against COVID-19.
- Should children get the vaccine? At present, the major vaccine clinical trials are currently focused on enrolling adults, and as they expand, the inclusion of children in vaccine clinical trials will be done gradually. So as of now, no vaccine is available for kids < 16 yrs of age.
- Why isn’t a COVID-19 vaccine available to kids at the same time as adults? Children’s immune systems are very different from adults’, and their immune responses can be different at different ages, from infancy through the teenage years. The current research that’s been done on the COVID-19 vaccine is for ages 16 and up. This needs to be repeated in children of younger ages.
- Will COVID 19 vaccine be given to everyone simultaneously? Based on the potential availability of vaccines the Government of India has selected the priority groups who will be vaccinated on priority as they are at higher risk. The first group includes healthcare and frontline workers. The second group to receive COVID 19 vaccine will be persons over 50 years of age and persons under 50 years with comorbid conditions. The third group would be rest of the public.
- Finally with many vaccines as an option, which one should I opt for? All the COVID-19 vaccines which have been approved have comparable safety. Efficacy might vary according to the composition and production of vaccine. So any of the vaccines available in your area can be taken depending on the availability of the same.
In India at present 2 vaccines are approved in India (restricted use in emergency situation): Covishield (viral vector vaccine) and Covaxin (inactivated/killed virus vaccine). However, whichever vaccine you opt for, it must be ensured that the entire schedule of vaccination is completed by only one type of vaccine as different COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable.
- What type of vaccines are available? How will they protect ? Scientists around the world are developing many potential vaccines for COVID-19 out of which some are already being administered both in India and rest of the world. These vaccines are all designed to teach the body’s immune system to safely recognize and block the virus that causes COVID-19.
Several different types of potential vaccines for COVID-19 are there, including:
- Inactivated or weakened virus vaccines, which use a form of the virus that has been inactivated or weakened so it doesn’t cause disease, but still generates an immune response.
- Protein-based vaccines, which use harmless fragments of proteins or protein shells that mimic the COVID-19 virus to safely generate an immune response.
- Viral vector vaccines, which use a virus that has been genetically engineered so that it can’t cause disease, but produces coronavirus proteins to safely generate an immune response.
- RNA vaccines, a cutting-edge approach that uses genetically engineered RNA to generate a protein that itself safely prompts an immune response.
Get vaccinated/Stay safe/Stay healthy !!
Dr Garima| themoppetsclinic🙂