vaccination, injection, coronavirus

Covid-19 Vaccination: All you need to know

India is battling against the second wave of the SARS -CoV-2 virus.

As per a report, the number of cumulative cases reported in India has surged from 67,259 on May 11, 2020, to 2,69,47,621 (Approx. 2.7 crores) on May 24, 2021.

No country’s healthcare system can handle cases of this number, leave alone India. This has resulted in a lack of beds in the hospitals, oxygen deficiency, and many such issues.

The biggest weapon against any virus is achieving herd immunity. That is, most people should become immune to the disease that even after getting in contact with it, their body successfully fights it. And there’re two ways of achieving it,

  1. Everyone should naturally get affected by the virus so that their body develops immunity against it. Though, this is not advisable because this immunity doesn’t last long, and not everyone has a good immune system that can fight the virus. As a result, there’ll be a loss of lives. This will also increase the stress on the medical facilities of the country.
  2. Vaccinating a major part of the population. The injected vaccine helps in developing immunity against the disease without being entirely affected by it.

Now, to overcome this struggle, India needs to get its citizens vaccinated at the earliest. But are they ready?

One quote that I saw today on Twitter seems to be very relevant in the current scenario.

Nobody is safe until everyone is safe

Skepticism towards vaccines

Though vaccines seem to be the only way out of this mess, many people are still resisting vaccination, stating that it’s not safe. Though many resources and doctors confirmed that the vaccine is absolutely safe, people are still skeptical.

The sudden death of the late Tamil comedy actor Vivek the very next day after taking the Covid-19 vaccination has made things worse. Though the Tamil Nadu health secretary Dr. J. Radhakrishnan confirmed that his death has nothing to do with the vaccine, the hesitancy still prevails.

If you’re someone who’s still concerned about the side effects of the vaccine, read on. I hope that by the end of this article you’re convinced to take the vaccine shot. If you’re already aware of the benefits of vaccination, don’t forget to share this article with the ones who aren’t.

How does the vaccine work?

Vaccines help in generating immunity against a targeted disease. They just fool your body’s immune system. To do this, different vaccine developers adopt different approaches.

Let’s take COVISHIELD for example. To make this vaccine, developers took a weakened version of a common cold virus from chimpanzees. Then, they modified this virus to make it look like coronavirus. When this is injected into the body, the immune system is made to believe that a real coronavirus has attacked and it develops immunity against it. Any experience of fever or body aches after vaccination is a positive symptom that the body is fighting and developing immunity against the virus.

On the other hand, vaccines like COVAXIN is made up of killed coronavirus. When injected, the immune system thinks an active coronavirus has attacked and it develops immunity against it.

Likewise, there’re still some approaches to making a vaccine.

When will a vaccine be approved?

Before a vaccine is available to the public, it has to go through a stringent approval process. Each country has its own approval process. Let’s look at India’s.

In India, a vaccine or any other drug has to be approved by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Here’s the approval process.

covid 19 vaccine approval process

There’s also a Phase IV study which is done after the vaccine is made public. This is used for long-term decision-making.

Will I get affected by COVID-19 after vaccination?

If you test positive after you’ve taken the vaccination, there may be two reasons for this to have happened.

  1. You might’ve already been infected by the virus just before taking the vaccination.
  2. It takes about 2 weeks for our body to build immunity against the virus after vaccination. You might’ve been infected during this period.
  3. There’s a term called vaccine efficacy which determines how efficient the vaccine will be. As per the reports, the efficacy of COVAXIN is 81 percent and that of COVISHIELD is 81.3 percent. Note that no vaccine, ever made, can be 100 percent efficient.

What does this mean?

Take COVAXIN for example. It has an efficacy of 81 percent. This means, If there’s a chance of 81 percent disease occurrence in the unvaccinated group, then there’ll be only a 19 percent chance of disease occurrence in the vaccinated group.

A point to note here is that no vaccine can be 100 percent effective. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has reported that only 0.04 percent of the vaccinated group test positive after taking two doses of COVAXIN. For COVISHIELD it’s only 0.03 percent. That is, among a group of 10,000 vaccinated people, only 3 or 4 people test positive.

If you think that you’ll fall under the 0.03 percent category, you need to consult a psychiatrist rather than a physician.

Who needs to consult doctors before vaccination?

  1. Children below the age of 18 years (researches on the way)
  2. Breast-feeding mothers.
  3. Pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant.
  4. People with bleeding disorders and taking blood thinners.
  5. Those who developed allergies after the first dose.
  6. People who have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines in the past.

Who should delay taking vaccination?

  1. Those who’ve contracted the COVID-19 disease should delay the vaccination by 3 months after recovery.
  2. COVID-19 patients who were given plasma or monoclonal antibodies need to delay taking the vaccine by 3 months after discharge from the hospital.
  3. People who’ve contracted the disease after the first dose of vaccination should delay the second dose by 3 months after recovery from COVID-19.
  4. People who have other serious illnesses requiring ICU should wait for 4 to 8 weeks before taking the vaccine.

Note: The above information is as per the Health Ministry, Government of India.

Common myths and rumors surrounding the vaccine

On one side doctors and clinical researchers are shouting to get people vaccinated. On the other side, myths around vaccination have grown multi-fold.

Spreading rumors in sensitive issues like this is a crime, and see where India stands in this regard.

common rumors about covid vaccine
Source: Research paper published by Md Saiful Islam, et al.

Here are some of the common perceptions people hold against vaccination in their minds.

Myth 1: The vaccines are not safe

If a vaccine isn’t absolutely safe, there would have been some adverse incidents reported within the first few months after vaccination. Now it has been more than 6 months since the clinical studies and no such incidents were reported. As per WHO,

You are far more likely to be seriously injured by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine

The vaccine won’t kill or harm you. It’ll only help you reduce the effects of infection.

If you’re someone who believes in conspiracy theories, you may still doubt the vaccines. But here’s the thing. Doubting the vaccine is like paving the way towards your own graveyard.

Myth 2: The vaccine shouldn’t be taken while on a period

Absolutely wrong. There’s no issue in taking the vaccine while the girls are on their periods. Social media posts that claim so are not to be believed. Waiting for vaccination because of the menstrual cycle will only increase your vulnerability. Out of many factors that impact periods, vaccines may contribute only a minuscule amount, which need not be taken seriously.

Myth 3: COVID-19 vaccine makes women infertile

covid vaccine on infertility
Source: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

There is no proven evidence which claims that vaccination makes women infertile. But rumors which say vaccination does make women infertile, are spreading like wildfire.

Myth 4: I’ve already been affected by COVID-19, so I don’t need a vaccination

The natural immunity that one gets after being affected by COVID may not last long. So it’s strongly recommended that you take the vaccine even if you’ve had a history of COVID-19 infection. Also, some researchers believe that protection offered by vaccines is far better than protection due to natural infection.

Myth 5: Side effects of COVID-19 are very dangerous

People do experience mild side effects after vaccination. But it is only a positive symptom. It means that the vaccine has started it’s work and there’s no need to worry about it. Some of the common side effects include

  • Joint, muscle pain, headache
  • Pain, itchiness, warmth, redness at the spot of injection
  • Generally feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Nausea
  • Chillness or fever

There may be other side effects, but these are the most common ones. These aren’t very dangerous. But, if these symptoms continue after 2 days of vaccination, consult a doctor. I’m saying this on a safer side. Most of the time these side effects are nothing to worry about.

Myth 6: The vaccine alters my DNA

This myth is not common in India as both COVAXIN and COVISHIELD do not use messenger RNA as some other vaccines as Pfizer and Moderna do. People of countries that use them think that they may alter a person’s DNA. But there’re enough researches to prove that they don’t.

Myth 7: One vaccine is better than the other

Experts and medical professionals ask you not to be picky while choosing a vaccine. Any vaccine that’s made available to the public is safe. If there’s a demand for COVISHIELD, then go for COVAXIN. Don’t just sit there waiting for COVISHIELD. This only increases the risk of infection. The longer you wait the greater the risk. Every vaccine has come to the public after a stringent approval process that we saw above. So don’t waste your time researching the best vaccine.

But note that both doses should be taken from the same vaccine. No two vaccines shall be combined. If you’ve taken the first dose with COVAXIN, then you shouldn’t take COVISHIELD for the second dose. In this case, waiting till the availability of COVAXIN is not very serious as you’ve already taken one dose.

Fact but not fully confirmed: I belong to the ‘O’ blood group – I don’t need a vaccine

Though some researchers have found that people with blood group ‘O’ are at a lower risk for being affected by COVID-19, these researches are not concluding. The same researches still suggest people with blood group ‘O’ get vaccinated.

Okay, I’m convinced tell me how to get vaccinated?

If you’re above 45 years old, then rush to the nearest health care facility and get yourself vaccinated. Try to ensure that enough doses are available before you go. Or you can register online at cowin.gov.in and schedule an appointment.

If you’re between 18 and 45 years old, only after getting an online appointment through the Arogya Sethu app or COWIN you can get vaccinated.

Final thoughts

Apart from these rumors, there’re many conspiracy theories like Bill Gates is trying to insert a microchip into everyone’s body through vaccines, the vaccine is made to kill older people, and many such. No such claims are true and shouldn’t be believed. Once again, you’re just a Google search away from enlightenment.

India needs to increase its rate of vaccination to ensure that we escape from the cruel clutches of COVID-19. But it cannot happen without the contribution of its citizens. Even if you think you’re healthy and strong, you can help in not transmitting the disease by taking the vaccine.

Remember, your strong immune system may successfully fight the virus, but if you transmit the disease in the meantime to others with a less strong immune system, they may even die. No police will arrest you, no cases will be filed against you, but still, you’re responsible for their death. Don’t you feel guilty? Then, why are you still waiting to open your browser and type cowin.gov.in?

I would like to end by stating what I stated earlier

Nobody is safe until everyone is safe

References

  1. Explained: When to take your vaccine shot(s) if infected with Covid-19, and if not
  2. Sputnik V, Covishield, Covaxin: What we know about India’s Covid-19 vaccines
  3. Vaccine Efficacy – The Higher The Better?
  4. COVID-19 Vaccines: Myth Versus Fact
  5. India comes out with a list of detailed answers for FAQs on COVID-19 vaccines
  6. Coronavirus Vaccine: Is It Safe To Take The COVID-19 Vaccine During Menstruation? Doctors Clear The Truth!
  7. Covaxin approval row: How India approves vaccines explained
  8. COVISHIELD factsheet
  9. COVAXIN factsheet
  10. COVID-19 vaccine rumors and conspiracy theories: The need for cognitive inoculation against misinformation to improve vaccine adherence

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