Finally Indian Govt has opened COVID-19 vaccination doors to everyone above 18 years of age.
Keeping in view the population of India, it will be a long haul until COVID vaccines will reach every nook & corner of this country. Still, as they say, “Good begun is half done”.
Before dwelling on the facts & myths, I would like to share two recent instances from my life that will give you a different perspective on this deadly pandemic.
A family friend along with his wife and parents became COVID positive after an unavoidable business trip. Thankfully, all of them had mild symptoms only. However, their 7y old daughter was negative. Being a paediatrician & family friend, I was called in for advice.
Back then, the knowledge about this disease was still evolving (Well, it still is).
Anyhow by mutual consensus, they isolated her in a room while rest of the family shut themselves off from the remaining world for 14days.
Imagine the plight of that girl! Apple of her parents’ eyes!! Locked up in a room alone for 14days because of a nasty bug which was troubling her entire cocoon.
Everything was hunky dory when it ended after 14days & everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
I received an anxious whatsapp message from a school friend in the middle of the night, “Anu, I need to discuss with you regarding my 10y old nephew.”
I sprang up from bed & called her (over the last one year, we medicos have been facing double stress of treating our patients and at the same time, worrying about our near & dear ones).
Apparently, her brother’s family was recovering from COVID, when her nephew who was negative earlier had started having high grade fever. Looking at his tests, I suggested them to visit a specialist in their own area so that bed availability is easier.
The boy was found to have MIS-C, a dreaded complication of the virus in children which can damage the heart & kidneys. A10y old sitting with a heart problem!
Fortunately, he is recuperating well.
This can scare any parent , ryt???
Until first wave , we had been thinking that this virus doesn’t affect the children & causes only a mild illness in young people. And,
this led many people to opt against the COVID vaccine.
But is it only about fever & hospitalization?
What about the insecurity & fear in the minds of little children when their granny or uncle or aunt is suddenly not visible as they are isolated in a hospital?
What if both the parents get infection and get hospitalized? Who will be there to pamper their little ones?
And worst thing, what if the initial infection goes unnoticed in the child & she later lands up in MIS-C, with all her body system messed up?
Folks, I’m sure many of you are aware of this & are already practicing the “3 golden mantras”:
2. Social distancing &
Now, we have the opportunity to add another weapon to our infantry – COVID-19 Vaccination.
Now, lets get down to 10 facts about COVID-19 vaccination:
1. Names/ Types of COVID-19 vaccines:
Currently, there are two vaccines available in India – “Covishield” from Serum Institute of India, which was outsourced from Astra Zenecea as you must be already knowing. This one has another virus called “adenovirus” carrying the COVID virus protein. This adenovirus is a cold virus. It can’t infect our body but carries the COVID protein to our immune system which mounts immunity against the infection.
Second one is “Covaxin” Made in India by Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad based pharma company. This one injects a dead virus in the body which is incapable of causing infection but stimulates our immune response.
Both these vaccines are injected into the muscle of upper arm (deltoid) as two doses.
Based on recent data, it is advisable to have a gap of 8-10 weeks between two doses of Covishield. On the other hand, Covaxin second dose is given 28days apart.
And, both need to be stored at 2-8 degrees, more convenient for Indian scenario.
However, we don’t get to choose the vaccine type. We’ll have to do with whichever type is available in our area. Just make sure that both the doses you receive are of the same vaccine.
2. Safety: Are Covishield & Covaxin safe?
Whenever a new drug/ vaccine/ procedure is developed, first thing that is considered is “safety”.
Rather we humans take a medicine only after asking “koi side effect toh nahin hoga?”(I hope there are no side effects).
Well, I won’t say the vaccine is 100% safe. No drug/ vaccine/treatment ever is!!!
Even a simple waxing of your arms carries the risk of allergy or burns, isn’t it?
Well, according to latest data 145 million doses of this vaccine have already been given in our country & 17 million have already received two doses, meaning they are fully vaccinated.
Vaccines have been fully tested for safety. Tests have also been done for safety in patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, kidney & liver diseases. But, as both the disease & the vaccine is new, monitoring is going on.
We are lagging behind in the race against this deadly disease. Risk of death from disease is much higher than that from vaccination.
Currently, the safety of these vaccines has been tested for adults only. Hence, it can’t be given to children below 18years of age. They have been staying indoors at our instructions for a year now. Now, it is our duty to get vaccinated for their sake.
3. What are the side effects of the vaccine?
As we know now, vaccines can’t be 100% safe. Every drug or vaccine can have some adverse effects.
We are advised to go for them because benefits outweigh the risks. Same holds true for COVID vaccine.
After vaccination, you can expect following symptoms:
- Soreness at injection site
- Fever in first 48hours of receiving vaccine
- Lethargy & fatigue
- Generalized body aches.
Recently, there were news of blood clots with Astra Zenecea vaccine which is available as Covishield in our country. Well, the incidence of blood clots was 1 in 1,00,000 to 1 in 2,50,000 according to UK & European regulators.
On the other hand, rate of blood clots with COVID infection itself is as high as 31% in critically ill hospital admitted patients.
So friends, definitely vaccination is safer than getting an infection. Still, experts suggest to see your doctor immediately if you develop,
- Bad headache
- Blurry vision
- Abdominal pain that is not going away
within 4-20 days of vaccination.
4. How effective is the vaccine?
You must be seeing two terms on social media – “vaccine efficacy” & “vaccine effectiveness.” What we should be concerned about is vaccine efficacy. In simple terms it means, “how much does the vaccine lower the chance of getting infection in comparison to unvaccinated people.”
Vaccine effectiveness is majorly for the policy makers, so don’t bother about it.
No vaccine can be 100% effective in preventing a disease. Still, a vaccine is introduced only if it has some significant efficacy in reducing the disease burden.
According to data, Covishield has 100% efficacy in preventing severe disease & death, 76% efficacy against COVID symptoms. This means that a person who is fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine can still get infected with the virus. But,
There is 76% lesser chance that he will develop symptoms & very low chance of getting critical or dying from the disease. This is what we want for now, reducing the death toll. Isn’t it???
If we talk about the mutant strains, studies are still ongoing. But few of them have found them to be effective against UK & Brazilian variants, and to some extent South African variant. Rest is unclear.
Also, Made in India Covaxin has 100% efficacy against severe infection, 78% against moderate disease & 70% against infection. Some interim analysis shows that there is some efficacy against UK, Brazil & South African mutants but still further clarity is needed.
5. Who should avoid COVID-19 vaccination?
Although both COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe & effective, following people should consult their doctor before considering COVID-19 vaccination
- People with any allergies especially those with history of allergy to a vaccine in the past
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women. Although currently this vaccine is not recommended for lactating mothers, a recent study from Israel found that if we vaccinate breastfeeding mums, their babies also have protective antibodies till atleast 6weeks from breastmilk. Hence, this vaccine might soon be available for new mums too!
- People who are critically ill & admitted in hospital for some other condition
- People who have recently received monoclonal antibodies or plasma therapy should consult their doctor before making a decision.
6. COVID-19 vaccination for chemotherapy recipients
People who are being treated with chemotherapy for tumors or certain other chronic conditions like post transplant have poor immune systems. Hence, they might not mount a robust response to COVID-19 vaccination. At the same time, they are at increased risk of serious complications from the infection itself.
Therefore, it is advisable to vaccinate them unless there is some other reason for not doing so.
7. How to register for COVID-19 vaccination:
You don’t need to go, call or ask anyone for this job. Its pretty simple. Simply login to https://www.cowin.gov.in/home
Just enter your basic info, photo ID proof & you are all set. With one phone no., you can register 4 members of your family. Of course, ID proof has to be separate for each one of them.
This portal provides you the list of all Govt & private vaccination centers near you. You can choose as per your convenience & affordability.
Usually, you will be able to book an appointment until 12pm of the day prior to your planned visit.
8. Preparation before going for COVID-19 vaccination
Keep the following things in mind when you are setting out for your big day
a. Have a light breakfast, don’t go empty stomach.
b. Go with a relaxed mind. You are not going for a battle.
c. Wear a mask, carry a hand sanitizer, a water bottle & preferably a short snack, in case there is a queue at the COVID-19 vaccination center.
d. It would be good to have a companion who is not planning vaccination on the same day.
e. Remember to carry your photo ID proof with which you registered yourself
f. Plan your day such that you can get time to take some rest after you come home. Moms can cook the lunch before going. Kids’ homework can be done a day later. Dusting & washing can of course take a day off.
g. After vaccination , continue to practice mask & social distancing. Vaccine protects you against serious disease. But you can still get infected & transmit infection to your family members.
9. COVID-19 Vaccination in already infected individuals
Natural infection with COVID 19 does provide some immunity against the virus. But we still don’t know, how effective are those antibodies & whether they protect against the mutant strains.
Hence, it is advisable to get the vaccine, even if someone has already had this infection. However, you should definitely wait for 4-8 weeks before getting your first shot.
10. My experience of COVID-19 vaccination
Being a healthcare worker, me & husband dear were first in line for vaccination. I got my shot of Covishield on day 3 of vaccine launch.
At that time, entire news system including some doctors’ portals were full of the news about side effects of this vaccine. I just went ahead with a positive mind & got my jab. Injection itself was painless but there was quite a bit of soreness afterwards.
And guess what! I was on emergency duty that day (well, at that time in January there was no choice to plan the vaccination, you are called to vaccination room & you have to take it, period!). The day was busy as hell.
I took off from all my blogging & household responsibilities [lucky to have a caring husband , wink , wink:)]. At night, I had high grade fever with bodyaches. I was shuttling between home & hospital for my emergencies. I drank lots of water all night, a tablet of paracetamol and was back to normal the next morning, enjoying breakfast in bed.
When I discussed my ordeal with my colleagues, I was surprised to know that I was the only one to have been symptomatic. They complimented me saying, “You have the strongest immune system amongst us!” “You are gonna have best protective response against infection!!”
Well, they say second dose causes more side-effects. This time, I had planned it well. Saturday, no emergency calls. Luckily, it was all well & there was no issue at all.
Almost 500 people around me have received both of their COVID vaccine jabs. All are hail& hearty. Some of them did have COVID infection after vaccination but none of them needed oxygen or hospitalization.
Friends, I have tried my best to simplify COVID-19 vaccination to you. If you have any doubts, do type in the comment box. You can find more details on COVID-19 vaccination here.
This is our best chance to do away with shortage of oxygen & hospital beds.
GO for it!
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To your health & happiness!