A year after the Coronavirus pandemic wrecked our collective lives, our society has been grappling with fear and insecurity. As a result, we have seen misinformation spread like wildfire, and many resorting to bizarre and incorrect methods of dealing with the virus. With this column, which will be published every Sunday, we aim to address any health or vaccine-related question our readers might have about the coronavirus pandemic.
In this week’s column, the queries have been answered by Jayaprakash Muliyil, Chairman, Scientific Advisory Committees of the National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai. Dr Muliyil has answered questions related to vaccine side effects, efficacy and safety.
What happens when a woman gets pregnant after the first vaccine shot? Should she take the second dose?
In general, we are avoiding vaccination during pregnancy. The vaccine is unlikely to cause any harm to the developing fetus but as a matter of abundant caution, you are advised to skip your second dose.
How long does it take for the side effects of the first jab of the vaccine shot to appear?
When you take a vaccine, most reactions, if any, occur in the first two weeks of taking the shot. While most of the side effects are well-documented before the vaccine is given to the masses, a vaccine, or any drug for that matter, can react differently in different people. So, we carefully watch all the events occurring post-vaccination to know about its unknown or lesser-known side effects.
Which vaccine, Covaxin or Covishield, have higher levels of side effects?
I don’t think there is an answer to this. Both are mild vaccines. Some European countries have reported an increased risk of cerebral vein thrombosis or deep vein thrombosis post-inoculation with Covishield, but subsequent analysis has shown no real problems. Though any vaccine or drug may have different reactions in different individuals, largely these vaccines are safe.
As the cases rise across India, can the vaccination drive be accelerated? Can the age bar be lowered soon? Can door-to-door vaccination begin?
We first need to understand why we are giving these vaccines. We are giving these vaccines to reduce the severity of the disease and the number of deaths the disease is causing. In a majority of the cases, the disease is mild or asymptomatic. For every clinical case, there are 25 sub-clinical cases.
As most of the deaths are occurring in 50 + and in people with co-morbidities, giving the vaccine to them on priority is a sensible decision. At present we are not certain regarding the vaccine-induced immunity to prevent transmission of the virus. If we find out that the vaccine can also stop the spread of infection, we can think of giving it to people across all age groups.
Can a person exercise or do strenuous physical activity after his COVID-19 vaccine shot?
There is no evidence that you can’t do physical activity post-vaccination. Some people may suffer from mild side-effects such as fever, myalgia, etc. However, I will recommend that people should take this decision based on how they are feeling after the vaccination.
Can vaccines cause heart attacks or strokes?
There is no evidence to correlate a heart attack with the vaccine. Having said that, I must also say that anybody can have a heart attack anytime.
As for stroke, some European countries have raised concerns about Covishield but based on the data we currently have we still believe that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh their risks. Different agencies are monitoring adverse events, which is helping us make an informed decision.
The cases are rising but most people are not following Covid- appropriate behaviour, essential for preventing the disease from spreading. What do you think?
This virus travels extremely fast. If we can just be cautious for a few more months, till the time the vaccines cover all the people vulnerable to catching a severe disease.
DISCLAIMER: Do you have questions about Coronavirus? Or the vaccines? Send us your questions: Tweet with #AskADoctor. Every week, we will have a public health expert address your concerns through this column.
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