Both doses of the vaccine need to be taken as recommended by the doctor and both doses should be of the same vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable.
About a year ago, we were all shut indoors wondering if we would ever see the end of the pandemic. COVID Cases continue to rise and that makes it absolutely important for everyone to understand the significance of getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is made available to you. It’s not just a lockdown that will save us all. With a vaccine to keep COVID 19 at bay, close at hand we are still enveloped in doubt and fear, our brains muddled with media screenplays and conspiracies. It is time for the facts.
WHAT COVID 19 VACCINES ARE AVAILABLE IN INDIA?
The two vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization in India are Covishield® which is AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Covaxin® manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited. Both vaccines have completed their Phase I & II trials. The Phase 1 Clinical trial involves a small number of participants and aims at assessing the vaccine’s safety, immune response to it and it determines right dosage. The Phase 2 Clinical trial involves a few hundred participants and assesses safety and the ability of the vaccine to generate an immune response.
Covishield® has completed its Phase III trials in the UK and the bridging trial in India. The Phase 3 Clinical trial involves thousands of participants. It determines vaccine effectiveness against the disease and safety in a larger group of people. The trial can last up to 2 years.
The latest updates reveal that the pharmaceutical firm Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in India will be bringing the Russian-made COVID19 vaccine, Sputnik V into the Indian scene shortly. Trials have been successful and now based on collated data the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization in India must approve of the vaccine.
ARE THE INDIAN VACCINES JUST AS EFFECTIVE AND SAFE AS THE ONES USED ABROAD?
While it might seem that the vaccines have been developed and introduced into the market in quick time, it must be noted that they have been introduced in the country only after the regulatory bodies cleared it based on its safety and efficacy, which are determined during the various phases of clinical trials. Only upon submission of sufficient data to support the safety of the vaccines will the Drug Regulator body provide a license for the same. COVISHIELD and COVAXIN are both said to have 70% to 80% efficacy.
The most important point to keep in mind is that both doses of the vaccine need to be taken as recommended by the doctor and both doses should be of the same vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable. The second dose of the vaccine must be taken 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose – this time period should not be exceeded.
WHO NEEDS THE COVID 19 VACCINE?
Ideally, everyone. The aim of the vaccine is to prevent COVID 19 infection or to reduce the severity of the infection. Taking the Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary. However, it is best to go ahead and get the vaccination in order to protect oneself from the disease. It will also slow down the spread of the disease and hopefully help wipe it out entirely. Right now, in India the vaccine is being administered in phases. Health Care workers received the first batch of vaccines, followed by those above 60 years of age and persons between 45 and 59 years of age with comorbid conditions. Those who are above 45 years of age will be able to take the vaccination from April 1st, 2021. Eventually the vaccine will be available to everyone.
Those with a confirmed COVID 19 infection must defer taking the vaccine by 4 – 8 weeks after complete recovery. The reason being that they are likely to spread the infection to others at the vaccination site. This brings us to the question as to whether someone who has recovered from COVID 19 needs the vaccine at all. Doctors believe they do. Getting vaccinated irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19 further strengthens the immune response against the disease. Another reason is that it is still being researched as to whether those exposed to COVID-19 actually develop immunity/ protection upon recovery. Hence getting vaccinated is the safest option.
Adequate immune response to the vaccines takes 2-3 weeks after the second dose of the vaccine. Hence it is recommended to continue to follow precautions such as wearing a face mask, washing hands regularly, staying indoors as much as possible and following social distancing when outdoors.
WHAT CONDITIONS MAKE A PERSON LESS THAN 60 YEARS OF AGE ELIGIBLE FOR THE VACCINE RIGHT AWAY?
The comorbidities that make a person eligible for vaccinations are:
- Heart Failure with hospital admission in past one year
- Post Cardiac Transplant/Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD)
- Significant Left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVEF <40%)
- Moderate or Severe Valvular Heart Disease
- Congenital heart disease with severe PAH or Idiopathic PAH
- Coronary Artery Disease with past CABG/PTCA/MI AND Hypertension/Diabetes on treatment
- Angina AND Hypertension/Diabetes on treatment
- CT/MRI documented stroke AND Hypertension/Diabetes on treatment
- Pulmonary Artery Hypertension AND Hypertension/Diabetes on treatment
- Diabetes (> 10 years OR with complications) AND Hypertension on treatment
- Kidney/ Liver/ Hematopoietic stem cell transplant: Recipient/On wait-list
- End Stage Kidney Disease on haemodialysis/ CAPD
- Current prolonged use of oral corticosteroids/ immunosuppressant medications
- Decompensated cirrhosis
- Severe respiratory disease with hospitalizations in last two years/FEV1 <50%
- Lymphoma/ Leukaemia/ Myeloma
- Diagnosis of any solid cancer on or after 1st July 2020 OR currently on any cancer therapy
- Sickle Cell Disease/ Bone marrow failure/ Aplastic Anaemia/ Thalassemia Major
- Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases/ HIV infection
- Persons with disabilities due to Intellectual disabilities/ Muscular Dystrophy/ Acid attack with involvement of respiratory system/ Persons with disabilities having high support needs/ Multiple disabilities including deaf-blindness
If you have any other chronic conditions not listed here, you can always check with the nearest hospital offering COVID 19 vaccination.
WHAT ARE THE CONTRAINDICATIONS OF THE VACCINE?
- Those with a known Allergy to any components of COVID 19 vaccine.
- Those with a history of immediate or delayed onset anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to any vaccine previously taken
- Pregnant and lactating women.
- Persons having active symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
- Anyone who is acutely unwell and hospitalized due to any illness.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE COVID 19 VACCINES?
The currently available COVID 19 vaccines are composed of inactivated virus/ recombinant viral particles, so there is no chance of acquiring COVID 19 infection due to vaccination. Post vaccination if you develop a fever, there is no need to fear infection. The fever and any other side effect, will subside.
Both vaccines are safe, and the side-effects wear off in a couple of days. The common side effects of the vaccine are mild fever, pain at the injection site, body pains, nausea. Usually, these symptoms are self-limiting. However, if the discomfort prolongs for days on end or the individual notices any other symptoms, it is best to check with the centre at which the vaccine was administered. This is why providing a complete medical history to your health care worker before getting the vaccine is important.