Medical expert clears the air around COVID-19 vaccines

Medical expert clears the air around COVID-19 vaccines
New Delhi, To vaccinate or not to vaccinate - is the question on everybody's mind today. But in truth, an informed decision must be made as our country begins one of the biggest immunization drive of the century.

In the early 80s no one really talked about getting vaccinated. It was just a routine part of a doctor's visit. In fact, it was mainly for kids, and elders never had to bother so much about being vaccinated. But with the progress in science and technology, children around the world have been getting vaccinated more than ever owing to the eradication of diseases such as Smallpox and Rinderpest. In India, the biggest success story was the Pulse Polio drive.

Yet now, it is almost impossible to publicly speak about immunizations, without sparking a debate. And in the past few month, vaccines have been increasingly dogged by controversy. Dr Sanjay Shah, General Physician, Fortis Hospital, shared a few facts that will demystify the fears within.

Should we get vaccinated or not?

According to WHO, UNICEF and the United Nations (UN), vaccines are one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, preventing many deaths per year. Vaccines are a necessity to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of our future generations. Vaccines, by contrast, are designed to bring about a more consistent and optimal immune response, Dr Shah says.


"They help sustain immunity for a longer time and boost whatever pre-existing immunity a person might have from an infection.

"Moreover, in a country like India, achieving naturally immunity for the entire population is next to impossible. Therefore, our country will need to take a two-pronged approach where we develop vaccine induced immunity and a part of the population can achieve natural immunity. We will require around 70% of our population to develop immunity in order to control the pandemic."

Can a Covid-19 vaccine make me sick with Covid-19?

Dr Shah replies: "No. None of the Covid-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes the infection, so a Covid-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with the virus."

Are the vaccines that received approval safe?

Dr Shah says: "Yes, the two Covid-19 vaccines - Covishield and Covaxin that are available in India, they have been shown to be effective at preventing Covid-19. Covishield has completed phase III trial, Covaxin is still under phase III trial. They have been developed very carefully and are authorized because they display higher efficacy rate."

Can a pregnant woman get vaccinated?

While the government has mentioned that pregnant women should not get vaccination, Dr Shah says if a pregnant woman holds the risk of been exposed to virus in any way, then it is safe that she takes the vaccine shot. The parents-to-be must speak to their physician before making this decision.

What if I travelled abroad and had 1 dose of vaccine from Pfizer but India has not approved the brand here? Can I take a second shot of another company or wait?

Such cases will be few though. But if someone has travelled aboard and had a vaccine shot of Pfizer, it is important to consult your doctor and then take the second shot of vaccine here. Consulting your doctor is necessary, Dr Shah says.

In coming months there will be more vaccine companies who will get DCGI approval. How do I choose which one vaccine company over the other?

"In it necessary to check for the efficacy rate of every vaccine. Vaccines such as Covishield and Covaxin have been developed using viral vectors which has been a tried and tested way in the past. Whereas the DNA or RNA-based vaccines have been a fairly new concept. But all vaccine candidates have been found to be efficacious against severe infections than against milder ones," Dr Shah says.

Which group of people need the vaccine the most?

Elderly population requires the vaccine the most, the expert says. "However, people must check with their physician first before getting their vaccine shot. People with co-morbidities and those with immune-compromised conditions should consult a doctor first."

Can cancer patients opt for the vaccine?

Patients who have survived Cancer and those are recovering and have better immunity, can opt for the vaccine shot, but again not without your doctor's permission, Dr Shah points out.

I am not a healthcare worker, but I have taken the Covid-19 vaccine, should I hide it from my physician, since I am not eligible?

Dr Shah says: "It is fine to inform the physician about taking the vaccine as there are no legal consequences for the same. Patient should not hide it as this knowledge will help the physician in giving the right treatment."

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