In light of the current wave of COVID-19 that we’re battling, a better understanding of the disease is more important than ever. The available vaccines are our best chance to stay healthy and to prevent complications. This knowledge is necessary for people to make an informed decision about themselves and their health.
To better understand the vaccine itself, medically and scientifically and to answer the queries raised by our users, we organised a session between Dr Pakhi Sharma from Phable, and Dr Sarath Honnatti, a reputed diabetologist and physician.
Keep reading to know better about the currently available COVID-19 vaccines and to get the answers to the most pressing questions, straight from an expert doctor.
An Introduction to the Currently Available COVID-19 Vaccines
Vaccines are created by taking small parts of an organism(bacteria/virus) and making them into a form that can be introduced into the body. By taking that small bit of the virus, a response is being induced in the body, as if the real virus has entered it. What this does, is start off the creation of an army of chemicals (antibodies) specific to fighting this virus.
In Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca), this small bit of protein is taken from the mRNA of the COVID-19 virus, while Covaxin is made from a piece of the dead COVID-19 virus. No matter which vaccine you take, as soon as it enters our body, it begins the creation of antibodies The duration of the time when the body is creating these antibodies is when people suffer from flu-like symptoms. None of the available COVID-19 vaccines are capable of preventing infection, but rather help in reducing their severity.
When you’re not vaccinated, and your body is faced with the virus, it takes a lot more time to build this army, and the virus continues to attack the rest of your body. When a person is vaccinated, the army of antibodies are already there in their system and can start fighting the infection right away and won’t allow it to affect other parts of the body.
Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccines
1. Why are people getting fever after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?
People are getting injected by the protein and it responds to the threat by producing antibodies. While the body is building this antibody, people will experience symptoms like fever to accelerate this process. When everyone is vaccinated, everyone who gets the disease will also experience milder symptoms, making us all better off.
2. Why are two shots of the vaccine required?
A lot of viruses are quite resilient, like the COVID-19 virus and the immune response from the body, the first time might not be enough to fight off any future infections. In order to ensure the desired immunity is built against this condition, two shots of the vaccine are recommended.
3.Who are the people who are not supposed to take the vaccines?
For now, because it’s a vaccine that was created in a short time, the research regards its interactions is still lacking. So there is no conclusive understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine on chronic ailment patients or any medicine interactions that may arise. According to the directive from the governing bodies, all chronic disease patients are still supposed to take it. The only exception is those who are already allergic to the proteins being used to make the vaccines. But in case your disease is poorly managed or you face complications, you may have to check with your physician before proceeding with vaccination.
4. Is Covishield okay for those under the age of 40?
The thing with the currently available vaccine is that only pregnant women, nursing mothers or those under the age of 18 are recommended not to get vaccinated.
5. How effective is the vaccine against the newer variants of COVID-19?
The currently available vaccines are made from something called spike proteins, which are extremely effective against most variants of the virus. Even with variants, the spike protein doesn’t get changed much and hence will create the desired immune response.
6. How risky is it for someone like my mother BP to take the vaccine?
From cancer patients to immunosuppressed patients like those who are HIV positive have been cleared to take the vaccine. This means that those with chronic ailments like diabetes, BP or even cardiac issues, have nothing to be worried about.
7. I’ve seen people getting corona after getting vaccinated. Why is that?
After getting vaccinated, it is said that it is 50% effective in fighting off COVID-19. So even after being vaccinated, people have to keep following all the social distancing and hygiene practices. While no vaccine can completely prevent you from getting the disease, it will drastically reduce the severity with which it affects your body.
8. What is the best vaccine? What is the fundamental difference between them?
All the available vaccines are made from the killed covid-19 virus or the mRNA of the virus. The only difference between all these viruses are in the technology used to make them, how they are stored, their immune response is all the same.
9. Why are there side effects after vaccination? And why is it more severe after the second dose?
The reason that people feel all the symptoms is because the body is fighting off the infection, and need the heat like settings to finish this process faster. The second time the vaccine is taken, the body responds with more severe flu-like symptoms to create more antibodies in the system and to strengthen the immunity against this disease.
10. How serious is the blood clotting issue with Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine?
There were instances, now also when we see the contraindications, there are some conditions, malignancy, especially blood count is low. And for some who are on anticoagulants, the vaccines should only be given if their ANA level is above 3. While there are certain people who may face issues, the complications are definitely lesser for a vaccine that has been created in record time.
11. Should people who’ve had covid-19 in the last 6 months take the vaccine?
Good immunity is seen in those who had COVID-19 for up to 3-6 months. But after that, they can go ahead and take the vaccine. It is still recommended that one should take it.
12. How long after the second vaccine will start building immunity? And how long will that last?
After taking the first shot itself, the body has recognised the antigen and is already developing immunity. But we’re not able to prove it currently, regarding how much immunity it is building, or how long the said immunity will last. But definitely, the rate of infection is much lesser after the first dose, and even lesser after the second dose.
13. Is there any impact of the vaccine on the hormone and menstrual cycle that women need to be worried about?
Not really. No major physiological changes have been observed as of now. And no studies show a correlation between your hormones and the vaccine.
14. How much time should I wait to get the second dose of the vaccine?
As of now, they recommend taking the second dose of Covaxin after 4 weeks, and the government of India suggests taking the second shot of Covishield after 6-8 weeks. This is because the continuing studies show that taking the second shot between 6-8 weeks works better to build immunity.
15. People are assuming there are more side effects of Covishield than Covaxin. Is this true?
If you actually look at the information regarding both the vaccines, the side effects are still the same – body pain, fever and such. So there is no tangible proof to the claim that Covishield has more side effects than Covaxin.
16. Why are children below the age of 18 not allowed to get vaccinated? Why is this restriction placed?
Children would have better immunity, and as age progresses, immunity comes down. This is why most governments started with the older people and moved down to vaccines youngsters. The other side is that there is a lot more study to be done regarding how vaccine affects those who are still growing. So right now, the vaccine is not made available to those under 18. But with further studies and better understanding, it will start soon enough.
17. Who is not supposed to take the vaccine?
Pregnant women, lactating women, and patients who are on certain medications should not take the vaccine. Even those who have lower blood platelet count can only get vaccinated after getting their blood tests done.
18. What is the risk of getting blood clots with the COVID-19 vaccine?
The case for getting blood clots due to vaccines is very less and only occurs in rare cases. But for the actual COVID-19 infection, a lot of patients end up suffering from micro clots in their lungs, and brain. So it’s better to get vaccinated and preventing contracting Covid-19 and subsequent complications.
19. If you’re a diabetic, is there a choice of vaccine that is better than the other?
Currently, there are no criteria or provision to choose vaccines, and we’d recommend taking whichever vaccine is available to you.
20. How long should someone wait to drink alcohol, after getting vaccinated?
Ideally, one should abstain from drinking alcohol between the shots, and up to 4 weeks after getting the second shot.
21. How can we build up immunity against COVID-19?
Exercise is the most important aspect is right now. There is nothing else that can serve the purpose of consistent exercise. Do at least 40-45 minutes of any exercise, and maybe do 15 minutes of pranayama. This can help in improving lung capacity, which is more important than ever right now. You should also eat 3 balanced meals and include more fruits, vegetables, dry fruits, and sprouts. Try to include different colours of food in your diet, and this will ensure that your body receives all the necessary nutrients it needs.
22. Any medicines that you shouldn’t take if you’re getting vaccinated?
Those who are immunocompromised, are on any medications for rheumatological issues, or even have chronic ailments, should reach out to their doctors and better understand their specific case. But right now, there are very few medicines that interact negatively with vaccines.
23. What are some newer symptoms of COVID-19?
These days, a lot more people are coming with abdominal symptoms over the earlier sore throat and coughing. A lot of people experience loose motion, stomach discomfort, or even just fever or fatigue. It has become very random and it is necessary to get everyone tested.
24. Pregnant women are not allowed to get vaccinated. But they are getting exposed. So will they experience more severe symptoms?
It is my individual experience that I’ve not seen pregnant patients having any more severe infection than the average person. But again, it will do well for them to continue being careful and seek expert help for timely care.
25. I got COVID-19 and lost my sense of smell on the 7th day. Is this something that I should worry about? Is it long term?
Loss of smell is a classic symptom, which will go away in a week or two. This symptom is usually seen in milder cases of COVID-19 and hence is not a cause for worry.
While COVID-19 cases continue to rage on, it is important that we keep ourselves informed and safe. Knowing more about the COVID-19, doing all you can to prevent it and getting the vaccine at your turn, are the three things that any person can do right now. During the time when our healthcare system is struggling to save everyone, we urge you to stay in, stay safe and do your bit to break the chain of infection.
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