Updated: May 16
COVID-19 has become a painful part of our lives, and presently, there seems to be no escape from it. It entirely disrupted our healthcare systems, especially with the kind of havoc it caused during the second wave.
Importance of Immunisation in Health Care
Driving an important, global movement for responsible healthcare, immunization with the help of COVID vaccines has become our only hope to protect ourselves from the virus.
Since the rollout of the largest vaccination drive in India this January, more than 4 million people have already got themselves vaccinated, and many more are looking forward to it.
However, those unvaccinated still ponder over some questions while fully vaccinated continue to wonder whether the vaccine jabs equip them with enough immunity and consequently the liberty to travel, meet loved ones and live as they did before the pandemic.If you traveling make sure you wear an n95 & kn95 mask for protecting yourself from COVID.
This article focuses on some of the most vital questions on COVID vaccines in India that a responsible citizen must be aware of:
How Much Does a Vaccine Reduce the Risk of COVID-19 and Its Complications?
You should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 because research has not revealed how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after recovering from it. Moreover, vaccination helps protect you even if you've already had COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines' principal purpose is to prevent people from getting extremely sick with the virus, and it shortly became visible the vaccines are highly efficient at doing this.
COVID-19 vaccines are developed to protect against critical illness and hospitalisation. Notably, the effectiveness of COVID vaccines approved in India ranges from 81% (Covaxin) to 90% (Covishield). However, some vaccinated people can still end up catching the virus, terming them as "breakthrough" infections.
But, it usually takes around 2 weeks for the body to build immunity after vaccination. There is still a possibility of getting COVID-19 soon after vaccination because the body has not had enough time to develop protection. So, keep taking precautions even if you are fully vaccinated.
People who take medications may still not be fully protected if they are fully vaccinated. They must continue to take all necessary COVID precautions.
Will the Vaccine Be Effective for All Patients?
COVID-19 is more prevalent and critical among individuals who are often underrepresented in clinical trials, also covering older individuals or those with chronic illnesses. Some groups may not even have identical responses to vaccination. A specific vaccine may be more fitting for some patients, and knowing those differences becomes requisite.
Phase 3 vaccine trials are outlined to evaluate such individual-level efficacy and safety. These trials typically focus on an original endpoint of virologically confirmed, symptomatic disease to capture the direct benefit of the vaccine that forms the basis for regulatory decisions.
Healthcare professionals, the elderly and people with comorbidities, are at the most significant risk of severe coronavirus disease. Therefore, a safe and effective vaccination was opened initially for them during Phase I to protect these groups. More recently, the vaccination drive added its focus on the general population as well. As per the research and trials, the vaccines in India are safe for people of 18 years & above as well as for pregnant women. Trials involving children are still a work in progress.
What is Phase I, II and III of the clinical trial for a vaccine?
Is it Mandatory to take the vaccine?
Yes, more and more people must get vaccinated as soon as possible to keep infection levels low.
Concept of Herd Immunity
If most of the population is immune to an infectious disease, it gives herd immunity to those not immune to it.
There are two methods to achieve this herd immunity: Either a substantial portion of the population gets infected or gets a vaccine. Experts advise that if we want to go back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, at least 70% of the people must be immune in order to pull back the infection rate.
Are COVID- 19 Vaccines in India the Same?
There are currently three approved and in-use vaccines in India.
What is the safety and efficacy of the vaccines used in the country?
To ensure that a vaccine is safe, it gets initially tried & tested and passes through three phases of clinical trials.
When a vaccine is tested, most of the unwanted effects, if any, occur in the first four to six weeks of its administration. Therefore, to ensure that it is safe, a close watch is kept on the people it has been given to for the first two to three months. This information assists in deciding if a vaccine is safe. The Indian vaccines have been considered safe on this yardstick.
As for the efficacy of the vaccines, it takes time to understand how effective a vaccine is. There is already a benchmark set that only those vaccines that show at least 50-60% efficiency will be recognised. Besides, when a vaccine is given an emergency use authorisation for restricted use, as in the COVID-19 vaccine, the trial follow-up also continues to assess the total duration of protection the vaccine will render.
What is Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)/ Permission for restricted use?
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a regulatory mechanism to acknowledge vaccines and medicines to prevent the influence of life-threatening diseases caused by Covid19. However, before the EUA grant, there is a comprehensive evaluation of clinical trial data, including quality, safety, manufacturing, and efficacy. Safety is an individually significant aspect of this scrutiny, and a risk-versus advantage evaluation is done in the context of a public health emergency. Full licensure is achieved when the manufacturer submits the complete data.
Should Vaccinated People Stop Worrying About COVID-19?
It's essential to recognise that even though everyone's risk escalates as the transmission rate gains speed, the danger is most eminent among the unvaccinated.
But even for those who have been vaccinated, it's sensible to be a bit more cautious. With the kind of devastation we have seen in the 2nd wave in India, any measures we take now will help curb the number of sick people in the days to come.
According to UNICEF, fundamental precautionary measures must be followed even post COVID-19 vaccination. Face masks, hand hygiene, and physical distancing in public places must not be discarded because a vaccine has been taken.
Can one get the vaccine if they are currently sick because of COVID-19?
According to the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, if you were treated for COVID-19, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. You must discuss with your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received, have any other inflammatory disease or have any specific questions or doubts about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
After I Get a Vaccine, What Can and Can't I Do?
After receiving the Covid-19 shot, the person is monitored at the vaccination centre itself for up to 30 minutes to observe any unfavourable effect following immunisation.
You may experience some side effects of the vaccine, such as fever, pain at the injection site and fatigue, but there is no reason to panic.
If the discomfort persists, you should visit the nearest healthcare facility and/or call the health worker.
Antibodies typically develop two to three weeks after having received the second dose of the vaccine. Hence, it is essential to continue following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
Please do not panic. We're all in this together: When the transmission rate takes a high, everyone's risk escalates as well. And when that happens, it's also imperative to send messages of awareness to each other. We must remember that this virus is a critical threat, and by vaccinating along with the appropriate COVID-19 behaviour, we might beat this pandemic soon.