The national drug regulator on Sunday gave “emergency restricted” approval for two vaccine candidates, Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, and Covishield, a version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine that is being manufactured under licence by Serum Institute of India.
As the country took the final step to begin vaccinating priority groups against the novel coronavirus, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, who has been at the forefront of the government’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic, released a video on the vaccination. This is what he said. (Edited excerpts)
Who gets the Covid-19 vaccine first, and how?
Priority groups such as healthcare workers, frontline workers are first on the list, followed by people over the age of 50 years and the persons under 50 years with co-morbid conditions.
The eligible beneficiaries will be informed through the registered mobile numbers regarding the health facility where the vaccine will be provided, and the health schedule.
Will it be mandatory to take the vaccine?
The vaccine will be voluntarily. However, it is advisable to complete the vaccine schedule in order to protect ourselves, our near and dear ones, our close contacts, family members, and co-workers.
Is registration with the health department mandatory?
Registration is mandatory for vaccination. The information on the session site (where vaccination will take place) to visit, and the time will be shared with the beneficiary only after registration.
A mobile phone application is being created to get registered.
What documents does one need for vaccination?
Documents such as driving licence, health insurance, smart card issued by the Ministry of Labour, MNREGA guarantee card, MNREGA job card, official identity card issued by MPs, MLAs, PAN card, passbook of bank or post office, passport, pension documents, service identity card issued to employees by central/state government or public limited companies, and Voter ID cards can be used for registration.
How will beneficiaries receive information about the date of vaccination?
Following online registration, beneficiaries will receive an SMS on their registered mobile number specifying the date, place, and time of vaccination. On getting the dose of the vaccine, the beneficiary will receive an SMS, and after all doses of vaccine are administered, a QR code certificate will also be sent to the registered mobile number of the beneficiary.
Are there any preventive measures and precautions that one needs to follow at the session site?
You should rest for at least half an hour after taking the Covid-19 vaccine. Any symptoms or discomfort must be reported to the nearest ANM or ASHA worker.
Will the vaccine be safe?
Safety is the most important factor, and all standard precautions as have been followed in the past for giving vaccine approval will be followed in this case too.
Will the vaccine introduced in India be as effective as the ones introduced in other countries?
Yes, the Covid-19 vaccine introduced in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed in other countries.
Out of multiple vaccines, how are one or more vaccines chosen for administration?
The safety and efficacy data from clinical trials of vaccine candidates are examined thoroughly by the drug regulator of India before granting licence. Hence, all Covid-19 vaccines that receive licences will have comparable safety and efficacy. However, it is important that we ensure that the entire schedule of vaccination is completed with only one type of vaccine, as different Covid-19 vaccines are not interchangeable.
Can a person with an active Covid-19 infection be vaccinated?
A person with active and symptomatic Covid-19 infection may increase the risk of spreading the same to others at vaccination site. Also, we do not know how effective the vaccine will be in such a situation when one already has an active infection. Active and symptomatic individuals should defer vaccination for at least 14 days after the symptoms are resolved.
Is it necessary for a recovered person to take the vaccine?
It is advisable to receive the complete schedule of the Covid vaccine irrespective of past history of infection. This will help develop better immune response against the disease.
What about those who are on medication for illnesses like cancer, diabtetes, hypertension etc?
Individuals who have one or more co-morbid conditions should take the vaccine because they are part of the high-risk group. The medication will not interfere with vaccine efficacy.
What are the possible side-effects?
As is true for other vaccines, some recipients may show some side effects like mild fever, pain at the site of injection, body ache, etc. States have been asked to make arrangements to deal with any Covid-19 vaccine related side effects as one of the measures towards safe vaccine delivery.
How many doses of the vaccine would have to be taken by a person and at what interval?
Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, are needed. This needs to be taken by all to complete the vaccination schedule.
When would antibodies develop? After taking first dose, after taking the second dose, or much later?
Protective levels of antibodies will generally develop two weeks after receiving the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
Does India have the capacity to store the vaccine at a temperature of 2 to 8 degree Celsius and transport them at required temperature?
India runs one of the largest immunisation programmes in the world. It already caters to the vaccine needs of more than 26 million newborns and 29 million pregnant women. The programme mechanisms are being strengthened and geared to effectively cater to the country’s large and diverse population.
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