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May 22, 2021

COVID vaccination in India : what you must know?

1. What are the different types of COVID -19 vaccines currently, available for use in India?

At present Covaxin and Covishield are the two vaccines which are available for use in India.

Covishield vaccine

Covishield vaccine is made by Oxford /Astra Zeneca & Serum Institute of India. It is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. It has been modified to contain the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike although it can't cause illness. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.

(To find out more on how a vaccine works please read the blog on vaccination: https://www.babyhelp.in/post/why-your-child-should-get-vaccinated-myths-vs-reality)

The jab/shot is administered in two doses given between four and 12 weeks apart. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, about the same as a domestic refrigerator, and can be delivered in existing health care settings such as doctors' surgeries.

Covaxin by Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL)-

COVAXIN is an inactivated vaccine which means that it is made up of killed coronaviruses, making it safe to be injected into the body. Bharat Biotech used a sample of the coronavirus, isolated by India's National Institute of Virology. Covaxin when administered teaches or prompts the immune system to make antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The vaccine is given in 2 doses with a time gap of 4 weeks between each dose. The vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. This vaccine is like other inactivated vaccines against Hepatitis A, Influenza, Polio, Rabies, which offer “excellent protection”.

2. How effective are these vaccines?

Covishield - The vaccine from the Oxford Astra Serum Institute has shown 70.4% effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% efficacy against patients who have been hospitalized due to severe COVID-19.

Covaxin- According to the interim results, the vaccine has an efficacy of 80.6%. This means the vaccine was able to bring down the number of symptomatic Covid-19 cases by nearly 81% in those vaccinated in the trial as compared to the group that received a placebo.

3. Who can be administered the vaccine?

The coronavirus vaccines mentioned above have undergone immunogenicity, efficacy, and safety trials in 18 Years and above and hence will be evaluated for use in adults under “Emergency Use Authorisation”. Clinical trials for the age group of 12 years to 18 years are in progress and once the outcomes are satisfactory, the articular age group will also be included in the vaccination drive. Hence anyone above the age of 18 years can receive Corona vaccination, but the Government of India has currently, allowed the Covid vaccine for all Senior citizens more than 60yrs and those with co-morbidities and above 45 yrs.

Co-morbidities include chronic diseases of the heart, lung, kidney, and liver, as well as diabetes, cancer, severe asthma, and mental or learning disabilities.

4. How to register for COVID Vaccine for your senior citizens in the family.

Use Co-Win app, Aarogya Setu app, or log on to cowin.gov.in

Enter your mobile number

Get an OTP to create your account

Fill in your name, age, gender and upload an identity document

If > 45yrs, upload doctor’s certificate as comorbidity proof

Choose center, date

Up to 4 appointments can be made by one mobile number

5. Does an individual who previously had COVID need the vaccine?

It is not very clear how long a natural infection with COVID would protect an individual in the long run. The antibodies developed by the corona-infected individual gradually fade away with time. Hence, it can be and should be taken by someone who had previously had COVID.

6. Can a pregnant lady take the vaccine?

There is no documented data on the safety of COVID vaccines for pregnant women. Since the trials did not involve pregnant women, the manufacturers have advised avoiding giving the vaccine to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

7. What is the recommended dose and schedule?

2 doses of 0.5 ml 28 days apart for both vaccines

8. How many days does the vaccine take to develop antibodies?

Usually, it takes 2 weeks (14 days) for the antibody response.

9. Will there be any need for a booster dose? How long will the protection last?

There is no clear answer to this. The subjects in the Oxford Astra Serum vaccine were evaluated for efficacy for up to 4 months after the 2nd dose. No booster will be required even though the antibodies may fade away; the effect of these antibodies will last long. It will take time to get a confirmatory answer.

10. Will the vaccine cause any adverse effects or side effects?

Like any other vaccine, both the vaccine has some minor side effects with both the vaccines as listed below.

Side-effects of Covaxin

The mild side-effects of the drug include injection site pain, injection site swelling, injection site redness, injection site itching, stiffness in the upper arm, weakness in the injection arm, body ache, headache, fever, malaise, weakness, rashes, nausea, vomiting.

Side-effects of Covishield

Some of the very common side effects of the vaccines are tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling, or bruising where the injection is given, generally feeling unwell, chills or feeling feverish, headache, or joint aches.

It is very much important to not believe in any rumors forwarded over social media or through any person. Always contact your physician or healthcare provider to get accurate answers to your queries.

11. Can patients who are diabetic take the COVID vaccine?

Yes, patients who are diabetic must get vaccination on priority. Out of the many risk factors for COVID-19, diabetes has been established with severe disease and adverse outcomes in COVID patients.

12. Can it be administered with the Flu (influenza) vaccine?

Yes

13.Who should avoid Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin-

  • People who are immune-compromised or are on medicines that affect the immunity
  • Have any history of allergies
  • Have fever
  • Have a bleeding disorder or are on a blood thinner
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding since the effect of the vaccine has not been studied on pregnant women and nursing mothers
  • Have received another Covid vaccine
  • Any other serious health-related issues as determined by the healthcare officer supervising the vaccine

14.Who should avoid Serum Institute’s Covishield- People who are severely allergic to any ingredient in Covishield. Ingredients in the vaccine include - L-Histidine, L-Histidine Hydrochloride Monohydrate, Disodium Edetate Dihydrate (EDTA), water for injection.

  • If the first dose of Covishield caused an allergic reaction, avoid the second dose
  • Any allergies
  • If you have a fever
  • If you are immunocompromised
  • Have received another Covid vaccine

15. Can I go out without a mask after taking the vaccine?

No, COVID is a new disease and we are still on a learning curve. No vaccine protects 100%. The vaccine has shown to be effective in the prevention of symptomatic disease and hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19. However, the ability of the vaccine to protect against asymptomatic infection is uncertain. A vaccinated individual may not develop a disease, but may get such an infection and may also spread it in contact with others. To prevent transmission, we will have to continue to practice wearing masks, observing physical distance, and sanitize our hands properly before going out and before entering the home after coming from outside.

Once about 70% population has antibodies following the disease or post-vaccination, the virus may not find a susceptible person to infect and will not spread, which is known as herd immunity. The Drugs Controller General of India of CDSCO approved two COVID Vaccines “COVISHIELD” & “COVAXIN” on January 03, 2021, for treatment of COVID-19 as an emergency treatment. The first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive began on January 16, 2021, as per the announcement by the central government of India with the priority given to healthcare and frontline workers.

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