All You Need to Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Medikoe Health Expert
Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru May 7, 2021
The world has just begun healing from one of its worst-hit pandemics. The coronavirus spread like wildfire and, as of now, has taken the lives of 3.2 million people. In India, there has been a loss of more than 222,000 lives. The Coronavirus Disease or COVID - 19 occurs when the patient is infected by a coronavirus, a newly discovered variant called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is similar to the SARS virus that was responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003. People infected by the virus mainly experience mild to moderate respiratory distress, and in severe cases, they experience fever and cough. In case the body reacts badly to the virus, it may affect the other organ systems too. The virus has worse effects on older people and those who have pre-existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular issues, chronic respiratory issues, cancer, or diabetes causing them to experience severe illness.
One has to be well-informed about the virus and its vaccines to fight COVID-19. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of confusion relating to the vaccine. A lot of misinformation is being spread, so in this article, we are breaking down to you what the vaccine is.
How Vaccines are Made?
Vaccination involves injecting the weakened form of the virus into our body so that the body can start preparing antibodies when the real virus hits. The COVID-19 vaccine works on a similar principle.
There are three different approaches to making a vaccine based on the part of the virus used to make the vaccine, i.e. the whole virus, the part responsible for triggering the disease or genetic material.
- The whole virus: In this case, the virus is taken and inactivated using chemicals, heat or radiation. The only issue with this is that it requires an elaborate facility to be produced, and a person would require multiple doses, usually two or three.
- Live-attenuated vaccine: In this case, instead of completely inactivating the virus, it is weakened. Or, they administer a virus that is similar to the existing virus. This vaccine requires similar facilities to the previous one but is a little risky when administering to immunocompromised individuals.
- Viral vector vaccine: In this case, subparts of the virus, such as the proteins that help trigger an immunological response but will not cause the disease. The process involves injecting a safe virus, which will instruct the cells in the body to produce a harmless version of the COVID virus. Seeing this, our body produces antibodies against this copy, thus preparing the body when the real virus strikes.
- The subunit approach: This involves using parts of the virus that trigger the immune system.
- mRNA vaccine: An mRNA vaccine uses genetic material of the vaccine instead of weakened or dead microbes. This genetic material instructs our cells to make proteins that should be recognised by our body so that they can produce antibodies.
About the COVID Vaccine
COVID vaccine makes use of the immune system to create antibodies that fight COVID-19. These vaccines require a spike-like structure called the S protein. COVID vaccines use the mRNA approach, viral vector approach, or the protein subunit approach.
In India, currently, there are two main vaccines that are being administered: Covishield and Covaccine. In addition to that, we have recently begun bringing in the vaccine Sputnik V from Russia.
Covaxin: This vaccine is an inactivated one that was developed by Bharat Biotech International Limited, Hyderabad, along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as well as the Nation Institute of Virology, Pune. This vaccine uses the mechanism of inserting the whole dead, inactivated virus into the body.
Inactivated cells are ideal, as they are least likely to replicate in the body but do hold the minor risk of reverting and causing pathological side effects. But these viruses are dead; hence, they won't infect the human body but will be enough for the immune system to prepare antibodies and defend the body against future infections.
Covishield: This vaccine uses the viral vector mechanism. The vector used over here is a chimpanzee adenovirus called ChAdOx1, and it carries the coronavirus pipe protein into the human body. Now this injected virus is completely harmless, but it will provide the body instructions on how to fight similar viruses.
Sputnik V: The Sputnik V also uses the viral vector method. In this case, the vector used is the human adenoviral vector known for causing common colds. This vaccine was produced after proper trials and has been well studied. The sputnik vaccine will be administered in two doses, and each dose contains different vectors. This allows the body to have an increased immunity for a longer period than when compared to other vaccines. Sputnik vaccine is known to show very few side effects.
The above vaccines are to be administered in two doses, 28 to 45 days apart. Unlike Pfizer, these vaccines do not need to be stored in a below 0°C environment and are presented in a ready-to-use liquid form. SO, they just need basic cold storage, like a refrigerator, eliminating the need for expensive cold-chain infrastructure.
Common side effects post getting the vaccine include itching, swelling, redness, numbness, stiffness, or weakness in the injected arm. You may also experience headache, malaise, fever, rashes, tiredness, nausea and vomiting.
The important thing is that you listen to what the vaccine administering officer says and follow it down to a tee. This includes consuming tobacco or alcohol within two days after vaccination, eating properly and having fluids.
Who is eligible for vaccination?
Since there isn't an unlimited availability of vaccines, the Government of India has made priority groups based on the amount of risk the groups are in. So, the prioritisation is as follows:
- First group: healthcare and frontline workers
- Second group: People over the age of 60s as well as people between 45 and 59 who have comorbidities, i.e. more than one disease or medical conditions
- Since April 1st, people who are above the age of 45 have been eligible.
- Since May 1st, citizens above 18 years of age are eligible to get vaccinations.
Who Should not Take the Vaccines?
Initial days of vaccination saw some deaths, but mostly the vaccination drive has been a success.
Bharat Biotech released a sheet that advised different groups not to take the vaccine, one of which was pregnant women or breastfeeding/lactating women, as proper trials have not been conducted on this group.
Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is to be avoided by:
- Immuno-comprised people, or those taking strong medications that affect the body's immunity
- People who have a history of allergies
- People with fever
- People with bleeding disorders like haemophilia or those who are on blood thinners.
- Pregnant/breastfeeding/lactating mothers
- People who have already taken another COVID vaccine
- If the healthcare officer administering the vaccine deems you unfit due to other criteria
Serum Institute's Covishield should be avoided by:
- People who are allergic to ingredients in Covishield, such as L-Histidine, L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, Disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA), Water for injection.
- People who observed a severe allergic reaction to the first dose
- People that may have certain medical conditions that the vaccination officer deems unfit
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you are unsure about whether you should take or avoid the vaccine, you can always contact a healthcare provider who will clarify these doubts.
It is important that you mention to your healthcare provider of:
- Existing medical conditions
- Any allergies
- Immunocompromised body
- Have received another Covid vaccine
In addition to the above, if you've had COVID, then you must not get vaccinated until three months have passed. So, you can get vaccinated three months after your recovery. The same waiting period should also be followed by people who contract COVID after the first dose of vaccination. You can then get the second dose after three months.
In addition to that, people who have had a severe illness that required hospitalisation should at least wait 4-8 weeks before getting vaccinated.
How to Register for Vaccine in India?
At present, India is involved in administering the Covid vaccine, namely Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Covishield, developed by the Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Besides that, India will soon start administering the Sputnik V, produced in Russia and imported and sold in India by Dr Reddy's; it has also received approval from the Indian drug regulator.
People above the age of 18 years are now eligible to register for getting vaccinated. People can register through the CoWIN app or the Aarogya Setu app.
Registering on the Aarogya Setu app
- Start by opening the Aarogya Setu app and then find the CoWIN tab present on the home screen and click on it.
- Choose 'Vaccination Registration' and type in your phone number. You will receive an OTP through which you will be able to verify yourself.
- Enter the details on the 'Register for Vaccination' page. This includes photo ID proof, name, gender, and year of birth. Once done, click on 'Register'.
- After registration, you will be given the option to schedule an appointment. Click on Schedule next to the name of the person registered.
- Provide your pin code and click on 'Search.' You will find a list of centres in the given Pin Code.
- Select the preferred date and time and then click on 'Confirm'.
Registering Through CoWIN Portal
- Visit the CoWIN website and click on Register/Sign in yourself.
- Provide your mobile number and click on Get OTP. Once you receive the OTP, you can verify and proceed to the site.
- Provide your details such as photo ID proof, name, gender, and year of birth on the 'Register for Vaccination' page. After which, you can hit Register.
- After registration, you will be given the option to schedule an appointment. Click on 'Schedule' next to the name of the person registered.
- Provide your pin code and click on 'Search.' You will find a list of centres in the given Pin Code.
- Select the preferred date and time and then click on 'Confirm.'
Myths VS facts about the COVID Vaccine
Myth: Since the COVID-19 vaccine was developed so fast, it could be harmful.
Fact: Vaccines that have been authorized have been proven to be safe and effective. Despite the fact that they were developed at record speed, they were subjected to the same rigorous testing as other vaccinations and passed all safety tests. There were no steps that were skipped. Clinical studies and safety reviews took about the same length of time as they did for other vaccines.
Myth: I have already recovered from COVID-19; I don't need the vaccine.
Fact: Even if you've already had COVID-19, there's proof that the vaccine can still help you.
Experts are unsure how long someone will be kept from becoming ill again after recovering from COVID-19.
Natural immunity, or immunity gained as a result of an infection, differs from person to person. Early research implies that this kind of immunity may be short-lived.
Myth: I won't need to wear a mask after getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: Until a sufficient number of people are immune, masking, handwashing, and social distancing are required in public.
People who have been fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks when they meet with other completely vaccinated people.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine may cause alterations in the DNA
Fact: The first vaccinations approved for emergency use contain messenger RNA (mRNA), which instructs cells to generate the new coronavirus's "spike protein."
When the immune system detects this protein, it produces antibodies, which instruct the body how to protect itself from infection in the future.
The mRNA never makes it into the nucleus of the cell, where our DNA (genetic material) is stored.
The body disposes of the mRNA as soon as the instructions have been completed.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine may cause severe allergic responses
Fact: Some patients do suffer adverse effects when compared with other vaccinations. These side effects include muscle discomfort, chills, and headache.
People can also experience severe adverse responses to vaccine components, though this is very rare.
That's why experts advise against getting the vaccine if you've had a history of severe allergic responses to the vaccine's ingredients, such as anaphylaxis.
Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine makes women infertile.
Fact: According to rumours on social media, the vaccine causes the body to attack a protein found in the placenta, which can cause infertility in women.
The truth is that the spike protein and a placental protein do share an amino acid sequence; but, researchers say it's too short to cause an immune response and hence has no effect on fertility.
Myth: You may get COVID -19 from the vaccine
Fact: The vaccine does not contain the live virus, just dead, inactivated or a subunit. So, you cannot contract COVID-19 from it.
Myth: I will test positive for COVID-19 after receiving the vaccine
Fact: COVID-19 is diagnosed using tests that look for the virus in samples taken from the respiratory system. The vaccines have no effect on your test results because they contain no live virus. But there is a chance that you get infected before the vaccine has had time to fully protect your body.
Myth: I'm not at risk for COVID-19 complications; therefore, I don't need the vaccine
Fact: You can get the infection and transfer it to others irrespective of your risk, so it's critical to get vaccinated.
It is suggested that as many eligible adults as possible receive the vaccine once it is widely available.
It's not just for your own safety but also for the safety of your family and community.
Myth: If I get the COVID-19 vaccine, I'll be more likely to get sick with another illness
Fact: There is no proof that getting the vaccine increases your chances of contracting another infection like the flu.
Myth: Because certain blood types experience lower COVID-19 infections, a vaccine isn't required
Truth: According to research, there is no reason to suggest that having a specific blood type increases the severity of COVID-19.
You are protecting not only yourself and your family but also your community by being vaccinated.
Myth: There is a type of microchip inside the vaccine
Fact: This was a myth that was propagated through Facebook by an American citizen. Some companies offer an extra version of their product that includes a microchip embedded in the syringe label, which allows providers to confirm the source of a vaccine dose. The chip isn't introduced into the person who is receiving the vaccine.