24, May 2021 | CJP Team
CJP is committed to empowering all Indians with correct information, especially amidst the present Covid-19 pandemic. In order to prevent fake news from building vaccine hesitancy among Indians, CJP has tried to answer some frequently asked questions about vaccination for Covid-19.
Starting April 28, all Indians above the age of 18 have been eligible to register on the government’s CoWIN portal and book an appointment to get vaccinated against Covid-19. However, vaccine shortages in some states are affecting availability of slots for people under 45 years of age.
Why should we get vaccinated?
Given the extent of the spread of the Coronavirus, all of us are vulnerable to the disease. Vaccines are our best shot against Covid-19.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines help us build anti-bodies that increase our immunity to the disease, thereby increasing our chances of dodging infection.
Most vaccines are given in two doses with an interval of four to six weeks. However, now Indians are being advised to maintain a gap of 12 to 16 weeks between doses of Covishield vaccine, in light of vaccine shortages.
Are vaccines effective?
Different vaccines have different efficacy rates or degrees of effectiveness, but your chances of avoiding the infection are higher with the vaccine than without it.
What vaccines are available in India?
At present the Government of India has cleared the following vaccines:
- Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech)
- Covishield (manufactured by Serum Institute of India in association with pharma company AstraZeneca and Oxford University)
- Sputnik V (manufactured by Russian Direct Investment Fund) has also been approved and is being made available by distribution partner Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL). However, since only a limited number of doses have been received so far, and domestic manufacturing is yet to start, the Sputnik V vaccine is not readily available. Please check the CoWIN website or app for more details.
The Indian government has also invited other vaccine manufacturers to apply for permission to sell their shots in India. State governments and corporate entities are also in talks with other manufacturers to import vaccines.
What are the side effects of Covid-19 vaccines?
Some people suffer from side-effects of vaccines for the first few days after taking the shot. Different people have experienced different types and varying degrees of side effects. These include:
- Soreness and pain at the vaccination spot
- Head ache
- Muscle pain
What about blood-clots?
Though there are multiple reports of blood clots developing among people who have been administered certain vaccines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), blood-clots are a rare side-effect.
Both agencies also say that the benefits of vaccination, outweigh the risks.
Should elderly people get vaccinated?
Yes, in fact, the vaccination of elderly people should be prioritised as they are most vulnerable to Covid-19 on account of age-related health issues. This is why people over 60 years of age were the very first group selected to receive the vaccine alongside health workers, before it was gradually opened to people between 45 to 60 years of age and eventually to people between 18 to 44 years of age. In fact, some state governments are now considering door-to-door vaccination for elderly patients and persons with disabilities.
What about prior ailments and comorbidities?
Prior ailments and comorbidities make people more vulnerable to the Coronavirus. However, vaccines have had side-effects in certain groups of people. For example, people who are suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis or are taking medication for heart disease, should consult their doctor before getting the vaccine.
One should also remember that not taking the vaccine leaves people vulnerable to Covid. What’s worse is that certain conditions like diabetes make people who have contracted Covid, and are being treated for it with powerful steroids, extremely vulnerable to other life-threatening conditions like Mucormycosis or Black Fungus Disease. Therefore, taking the vaccine is advisable, and in case you have any concerns, it is best to consult your doctor before getting vaccinated.
Can people with HIV take the Covid vaccine?
At present there is very little data available on impact of vaccination on people living with HIV. According to Interim Guidance issued by US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Antiretroviral and Opportunistic Infections in February 2021, “Whether people with HIV are at greater risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection is currently unknown. Data on the clinical course of Covid-19 in people with HIV are emerging. In the initial case series from Europe and the United States, no significant differences in clinical outcomes were found between people with HIV who developed Covid-19 and individuals without HIV.” However, it recommends, “People with HIV should receive SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, regardless of CD4 or viral load, because the potential benefits outweigh potential risks.”
HIV positive people are advised to consult their doctors before getting vaccinated. When it comes to comorbidities in people over the age of 45 in India, HIV is in the list of 20 comorbidities for which doctors can issue a certificate. Also, patient’s HIV status confidentiality needs to be maintained by the vaccine administering authority during vaccination.
Can pregnant women get vaccinated?
In India, while an expert group has recommended encouraging vaccination for lactating mothers, deliberations are still on about whether pregnant women should take the vaccine. This is because neither Covishield, nor Covaxin have been tested on pregnant or lactating women for efficacy or side effects.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe Covid-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy. Pregnant women may receive the vaccine if the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that is monitoring the Covid vaccination process in the United States, “Pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with Covid-19 compared with non-pregnant people. If you are pregnant, you can receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Getting a Covid-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from Covid-19.” But it goes on to say, “Based on how these vaccines work in the body, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a risk for people who are pregnant. However, there are currently limited data on the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant people.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also said that Covid-19 vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant individuals who choose to receive the vaccine.
However, it is advisable to consult one’s doctor in case of any apprehensions or concerns.
Does the vaccine affect menstruation?
A temporary impact on menstrual volume or schedule regularity is a rare side effect. Contact your gynecologist immediately if you notice any changes in your menstrual volume or cycle interval after vaccination. Also, while muscle ache for a few days is a common side effect, contact your doctor if your period cramps are more painful than usual.
Should children be vaccinated?
In many developed nations including the United States, vaccination has ben opened to children over 12 years of age. In India, vaccination has not yet been opened to people under the age of 18.
Given the current vaccine shortage, it is unlikely that vaccination will be made available to children in the next few months. It is advisable to go through each vaccine’s independent report on efficacy and side effects on children, and also consult a doctor before considering vaccinating children.
What about vaccination for people who have already contracted and recovered from Covid -19?
People who have already recovered from Covid-19 should also get the vaccine. In India, such individuals are recommended to take the vaccine at least three months after recovery.
So, what are you waiting for? Register on https://www.cowin.gov.in/home and book your vaccination appointment today!
Image courtesy Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) via Wikimedia Commons.