FAQs – Covid vaccines answered in a simple manner by Dr. Anmol Patted
All adults in India will be eligible to get their vaccines starting May 1, 2021. Since the announcement there has been a lot of misinformation circulating on the internet regarding the vaccines.
The vaccines are NOT being delivered for young adults between 18 & 45 years from May 1 due to supply issues but the same would be made available in this month.
Vaccine hesitancy is another public health challenge that we must battle during this pandemic. It’s only natural to be skeptical about the things that we don’t have much information about, so in this article I’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions colloquially, and hope that it’ll help you make an informed decision.
Can the covid vaccine give me COVID-19?
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines basically are like taking mock exams. They’re very much like the main exam but without the consequences of the results. Vaccines against COVID-19 prepares your body to tackle the infection without making you sick. It alerts your body to identify and fight an infection before it can spread fast and wide within you, and thereby protects you!
I’m young & healthy. Why do I need to get the vaccine?
The newer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is reported to be much more infective and virulent. It is now seen to be affecting young people and children as well. This is true to the nature of a virus in a pandemic. As it moves through its host population it gets stronger. Though it won’t get bad enough to kill the entire host species, it will get worse! When the majority of the population gets vaccinated, we attain ‘herd immunity’. This will makes it difficult for the virus to spread, and ultimately lead to the end of the pandemic.
I have heard that people who have been vaccinated are also getting infected. What’s the point of me getting the vaccine then?
Think of it this way: Sometimes people who study hard and take mock tests in prep for an exam can still get a bad score. But NOT studying for an exam would definitely set them up for failure. Similarly, one might fall sick with COVID-19 despite taking the vaccine, but the severity of the disease will be much less, and most can recover with little-to-moderate care. They will most likely not end up in hospitals battling for their lives.
Once I get the vaccine, do I still need to wear a mask and practice social-distancing?
Yes. A vaccinated person can get the COVID-19 infection with NO visible symptoms. When such a person comes in contact with others, they can transmit the infection. This can potentially threaten the health of those persons who are not vaccinated. So, it is very important that we continue to a wear a mask and practice social-distancing.
I’ve heard that vaccines take decades to be developed. Then how is it that the COVID vaccines came out in the span of months. How do I know they are safe?
Yes, most vaccines take a long duration to be developed and approved by the regulatory bodies.
The biggest reasons for these delays are:
Lack of funding for research.
Lack of volunteers for vaccine testing.
However, we did not have these barriers with development of the vaccines against COVID-19. There was a lot of interest from around the world to get the vaccines rolling and hence, it was possible to get them ready in such a short while.
Who should not take the covid vaccines?
Is allergic to any component of vaccine.
Has had an allergic reaction to the first dose of the vaccine.
Has a current infection and fever
Is not an adult.
You must discuss with you doctor before getting the vaccine if one:
Has a compromised immune system
Is pregnant/ breastfeeding
Is severely frail (sick or weak)
What are the common side effects of covid vaccines?
Pain (and swelling) at injection site
Fatigue and body ache
Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
Are there any restrictions on the use of other medications once one gets vaccinated? I take some medicine regularly. Do I need to take any precautions?
No, there are no restrictions on other medications once you get vaccinated.
However, if an individual is taking regular medication for a pre-existing condition then it is best consult with your doctor prior to taking the vaccine.
Will I be protected with only one dose of the vaccine? Which dose is more effective: Dose 1 or Dose 2?
One dose of the vaccine will protect you to a lesser extent than two doses. The second dose builds on the protective strength of the first one.
The two doses of the Covishield and Covaxinvaccines are identical, and need to be taken 6-8 weeks and 28 days apart respectively.
However, the newly approved Sputnikvaccine has a slightly different second dose, and needs to be taken 21 days apart.
Can I take one dose of Covishield vaccine and the second dose of Covaxin vaccine or vice-versa?
No, it is recommended that you take both the doses of the same vaccine.
Be sure to confirm the name of the vaccine at both your vaccine appointments.
Is one brand of vaccine better than the other? Do I wait till I get vaccinated by my desired brand?
All vaccines approved by the Government of India have been tested for their efficiency and safety.
Please take whatever vaccine is easily accessible to you.
Given the current situation, what to do if the second shot of vaccine is not available due to shortage?
Though there is a delay in the vaccine supply chain it must not discourage you from getting the vaccine.
With the Indian market opening to various international vaccines, it is expected that there will be sufficient doses.
I already had COVID-19, do I still need to be vaccinated? How long do I wait before I get the vaccine?
Yes, please get vaccinated even if you’ve recovered from COVID-19. Different people have different immune response to the infection and there are cases of re-infections reported. So, it’d be better to get vaccinated.
You can get the vaccine once you’ve completely recovered from the infection (4-6 weeks after your symptoms are resolved).
However, if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, then please wait for 90 days before you get vaccinated.
If I get COVID-19 after taking my first dose, do I still need to take my second dose?
It is recommended that you take the second dose of the vaccine once you have completely recovered from the infection (14 days after your symptoms are resolved) as early to the vaccine interval window recommended by your vaccine provider as possible.
However, if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, then you’d need to wait for 90 days before you get vaccinated. In this case, the efficacy of the vaccines have not been studied yet.
I’ve heard some vaccines are causing blood clots. Is this true?
It is true that AstraZenaca/ Covishield vaccine have reported blood clots as a rare side effect. However, recent studies have shown that the risk for blood clots is 8-10 times higher with COVID-19 infection than with the covid vaccines. Based on the available scientific data, it has been clearly stated that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks.
In fact, Dr. Shahid Jameel, a senior virologist in the country stated that one is two-times more likely to die from a lightening strike than due to a blood clot following a covid vaccine.
It might also comfort you to know that doctors can detect blood clots and treat them efficiently.
Is it true that the vaccination process needs to be repeated every year?
As of now, we do not have sufficient data on how long the protection from the vaccine lasts, and if and when we would need the booster doses.
However, there is sufficient data that the vaccine helps in reducing the risk of severe illness following the infection, and that it is very likely to break the chain of virus transmission.
Can I donate plasma and blood after being vaccinated?
Yes, you can donate blood and plasma after 28 days from the date of your second dose of vaccination.
However, women who have been pregnant cannot donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
About the Author:
Dr. Anmol Patted’s areas of interest are reproductive health, health systems and policy, and medical education. Over the past five years, I’ve worked with non-governmental organisations to promote public health and medical education. I established India’s first student-run research exchange program with Medical Students Association of India – an organisation that I later went on to lead as the youngest president.