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Covid-19 Vaccination explained by India’s top health experts

India's top health experts Dr. Randeep Guleria, AIIMS Chief and Dr. V.K. Paul, member Niti Ayog, cleared several doubts regarding Covid-19 vaccination in a prorgramme on DD News

The Covid-19 vaccination is relatively new and this has led to several questions and doubts in the minds of the people. Taking some of these frequently asked questions about Coronavirus inoculation, India’s top medical experts, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Director, Dr. Randeep Guleria and Dr. V.K. Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog addressed varied doubts from the citizens.

Both these experts gave these replies on Covid-19 vaccines in a special programme on DD News on June 6.

Here are some of these questions and replies:

Can people with allergies get vaccinated?

Dr. Paul: If someone has a significant allergy problem, then Covid vaccine should be taken only after medical advice. However, if it is only a question of minor allergies like getting a common cold, skin allergies, etc., one should not hesitate to take the vaccine.

Dr. Guleria: Those on prior medication for allergies should not stop these, they should continue to take the medication regularly while getting themselves vaccinated. It is also important to understand that arrangements have been made at all vaccination sites for management of allergies arising due to vaccination.  Hence, we advise that even if you happen to have a severe allergy, you keep taking the medication and go and get yourself vaccinated.

Can pregnant women take Covid-19 vaccine?

Dr. Paul: As per our current guidelines vaccination should not be given to pregnant women. The reason for this is that a decision recommending vaccination to pregnant women could not be taken by doctors and the scientific community based on available data from vaccine trials. However, the Government of India will clarify this situation in a few days, based on new scientific inputs.

It is being found that many Covid-19 vaccines are being found safe for pregnant women; we hope the route should open for our two vaccines as well. We request the public to be a little more patient, especially considering that the vaccines have been developed in a very short span of time, and pregnant women are not usually included in the initial trials, due to safety concerns.

Dr. Guleria: Many countries have begun vaccination for pregnant women. The US Food and Drug Administration has given approval for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Data regarding Covaxin and Covishield will also come soon; some data is already available, and we hope that in a few days, we hope to get the full required data and grant approval for vaccinating pregnant women in India too.

Can breastfeeding mothers take Covid-19 vaccine?

Dr. Paul: There is a very clear guideline regarding this: the vaccine is absolutely safe for lactating mothers. There is no need for any fear. There is no need to stop or pause breastfeeding either before or after vaccination.

Is blood clotting common after taking the vaccine shots?

Dr. Paul: A few cases of this complication did come to the fore, particularly with regard to Astra-Zeneca Vaccine. This complication occurred in Europe where this risk was seen to be present to some extent in their younger population due to their lifestyle, body and genetic structure. But, I would like to assure you that we have systematically examined this data in India and found that such blood-clotting incidents are almost negligible here, so negligible that one need not worry about it. In European countries, these complications were found to be almost 30 times more than that in our country.

Dr. Guleria: It has been seen earlier also that blood clotting after surgery occurs less in Indian population in comparison to that in US and European populations. This side-effect, named as Vaccine induced Thrombosis or Thrombocytopenia, is very rare in India, found to occur in a much lesser proportion than in Europe. Hence, there is no need to be scared of this. Treatments also are available for this, which can be adopted, if diagnosed early.

If I have contracted Covid, after how many days can I get myself vaccinated?

Dr. Guleria: The latest guidelines clearly state that a person who caught Covid-19 can take the vaccine after three months from the day of recovery Doing this will help the body develop stronger immunity and the effect of the vaccine will be better.

Do I get enough antibodies after getting vaccinated?                          

Dr. Guleria: It is important to understand that we should not judge the efficacy of vaccines only by the amount of antibodies getting generated. Vaccines give many types of protection such as through antibodies, cell-mediated immunity and memory cells (which generate more antibodies when we get infected).  Moreover, the efficacy results which have come so far are based on trial studies, where the study design of each trial is somewhat different.

Data available till now shows clearly that efficacy of all vaccines, whether Covaxin, Covishield or or Sputnik V are more or less equivalent. We should not hence say take this vaccine or that vaccine, whichever vaccine is available in your area, please go ahead and get yourself vaccinated so that you and your family are safe.

Dr. Paul: Some people seem to be thinking of getting an antibody test done post vaccination. But that is not required to be done for the simple fact that antibodies alone do not indicate the immunity of a person.  This is so because of T-cells or memory cells; these undergo certain changes when we receive the vaccine, they become stronger and gain resistance power. And T-Cells are not detected by antibody tests as these are found in bone marrow. Hence, our appeal is to not fall in the tendency of doing antibody tests either before or after getting vaccinated, take the vaccine which is available, take both doses at the right time and follow Covid Appropriate Behaviour.

Also, people should not be under the false notion that the vaccine is not required if you have had Covid-19.

Both Dr Paul and Dr Guleria stressed that the vaccines in India are effective on the mutants which have been seen in India till date. Besides, they dubbed rumours going around on social media that the immune system becomes weak after taking vaccines or people die after taking vaccines as wrong and unfounded.

For more such questions please read FAQs of the Union Health Ministry (https://www.mohfw.gov.in/covid_vaccination/vaccination/faqs.html)