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Saturday, June 19, 2021

India’s Covid-19 vaccines: All your questions answered

With India's vaccination drive gaining momentum, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 6, 2021 2:34:40 pm
Two people receive their first dose of the Coronavirus vaccine in Pune.

Nearly a week has passed since India launched the third phase of its nationwide coronavirus vaccination drive, against the backdrop of rapidly rising Covid cases and an acute shortage of vaccine stocks in many regions across the country. But despite initial hurdles, lakhs of people between the ages of 18 and 45 are now receiving their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Stampede-like situations broke out at vaccination centres in several cities and towns in recent days, as thousands assembled to get the jab while stocks last. So far, over 16.25 crore vaccines have been administered since the first phase of the inoculation drive began in January, this year.

With the vaccination drive gaining momentum, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

How long should you wait between the two vaccine doses?

For the Covishield vaccine, the Health Ministry recommends a time interval of four-eight weeks between the two shots. Whereas, the second dose of Covaxin can be taken four to six weeks after the first.

The reason health authorities recommend waiting between shots is because the first dose generally induces an immune response about three weeks later, but it can take up to eight weeks or longer for the antibodies to mature and become fully functional.

Will you get to choose which vaccine you receive?

No, vaccines are provided based on what is available and supplied to different states.

Should a person who is showing symptoms of Covid-19 be vaccinated?

The Health Ministry recommends waiting at least 14 days after symptoms are resolved to get the vaccine in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at vaccination sites.

How long after testing positive for Covid-19 can you get vaccinated?

Health officials recommend getting both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine even after contracting the illness, in order to develop a stronger immune response. The Health Ministry website states that Covid patients should wait 4-8 weeks after recovering to receive the first dose of the shot.

Can people taking medication for illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and hypertension take the vaccine?

Yes, people with comorbidities such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension can get the vaccine after consulting with a medical professional. The Health Ministry website reads, “Overall, the vaccine is safe and efficacious in adults with comorbidity. The maximum benefit of getting the COVID-19 vaccine is for those who have such co-morbidities.”

Will the vaccine protect you against mutant strains of the novel coronavirus?

Based on available research, the two vaccines available in India provide reasonable protection against mutant strains of the virus as well.

Why isn’t the vaccine being provided to children?

While several cases of Covid-19 infecting children have been registered over the last two years, the mortality is higher among adults, especially those over the age of 50. Hence, vaccinating adults first has been prioritised in the country. The vaccines that are presently available in India, have not been evaluated on children so far. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, some trials are presently underway to check the effectiveness and safety of administering the Covid vaccine on children.

Meanwhile, in countries like the United States, the vaccine is already being administered on children over the age of 16. The US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soon likely to authorise the use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15.

Should you avoid alcohol after getting the vaccine?

Since there is no evidence of alcohol impairing the effectiveness of the vaccine, there is no need to abstain from drinking after receiving the shot. Alcohol will not by itself render the vaccine ineffective against the novel coronavirus infection.

Can breastfeeding mothers take the vaccine?

According to guidelines released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in January this year, pregnant women and lactating mothers are exempt from getting the coronavirus vaccine as they have not been included in clinical trials to test the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. This clause has been challenged by several medical practitioners in the country.

In countries such as the United States, pregnant women are permitted to receive the coronavirus vaccine. The US’ CDC website points out that pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting the deadly infection.

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