As India gears up for the world”s largest vaccination programme, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare addressed apprehensions expressed by the public regarding the COVID-19 vaccine”s effectiveness, safety and availability, among others.
In a video issued by the Health Ministry, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) answered commonly asked questions regarding the dosage of the vaccine saying that two doses of the vaccine will have to be taken 28 days apart and protective levels of antibodies generally would develop two weeks after the second dose.
He further informed that after all doses of the vaccine are administered, a QR-code based certificate will also be sent to the mobile number of the beneficiary and recommended that after vaccination, patients should take rest for at least 30 minutes.
“If you feel any symptoms, any discomfort, please contact the nearest authorities like ANM, ASHA workers so that they can attend to the problem,” Dr Guleria said, urging people to continue following COVID appropriate behaviours including wearing of masks and social distancing.
The AIIMS Director also cautioned that the different COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable, and people should complete their entire schedule of vaccination by one type.
Regarding vaccination of persons who actively had COVID-19, he recommended that they defer vaccination for at least 14 days after symptoms are resolved.
“We do not know how effective the vaccine will be when one is already having active infection so for this reason, I believe that active and symptomatic individuals should defer vaccination for at least 14 days after symptoms are resolved,” he said, adding that they may increase the risk of spreading the infection to others at the vaccination site.
He further said that those who had recovered should also receive the complete schedule of the COVID-19 vaccine to help in a better immune response against the disease.
“It is very important that individuals who have one or more comorbid conditions like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc, take the vaccine because they are actually high-risk groups. Their medicines will not interfere with the vaccine efficacy,” he added.
He also said that some degree of common side effects like mild fever, pain at the side, body aches, will likely be seen in some individuals. “States have been asked to start making arrangements to deal with any COVID-19 related side effects,” Guleria added.
Responding to a question, “Will the COVID-19 vaccine be given to everyone simultaneously?” Dr Guleria said that it would depend on its availability and the government had selected priority groups who will be vaccinated based on risk factors.
“The first group will include healthcare and frontline workers, followed by persons over the age of 50 and persons under 50 with comorbidities. This will be done to avoid any inconvenience in registration and vaccination of beneficiaries,” he said.
The eligible beneficiaries will be informed through their registered mobile numbers regarding the Health Facility where the vaccine will be provided and the scheduled time.
He advised that although taking the vaccine was voluntary, people should take the complete vaccine to protect themselves and near and dear ones.
Dr Guleria further addressed apprehensions about the safety of the vaccine considering that it was tested and introduced in a short span of time, saying, “Safety is the most important factor and all standard precautions have been followed in the past for the approval of the vaccine,” adding that the vaccine in India would be as effective as those developed by other countries.
Registration of beneficiaries would be mandatory for vaccination.
Documents required for registration of a beneficiary include driving license, Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of the Ministry of Labour, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) Job Card, Official identity cards issued by MPs/MLAs/MLCs, PAN card, Passbooks issued by Banks/Post Office, Passport, Pension documents, Service ID cards issued by the Central or State government and public limited companies or Voter ID cards.
The document used for registration will have to be produced at the time of vaccination.
“Following online registration, beneficiaries will receive SMS on their registered mobile number on the due date, place and time of vaccination,” Dr Guleria said, adding that after the completion of the vaccine, the beneficiary will receive an SMS on their registered mobile number.
Regarding India”s capabilities to transport and store the COVID-19 vaccines at the appropriate temperatures, he said that the programme mechanisms are being strengthened and geared up to cater to the county”s population.
Earlier today, the COVID-19 vaccines of Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech were granted permission for restricted use in an emergency situation, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) said.
“After adequate examination, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has decided to accept the recommendations of the Expert Committee and accordingly, vaccines of M/s Serum and M/s Bharat Biotech are being approved for restricted use in emergency situation and permission is being granted to M/s Cadila Healthcare for conduct of the Phase III clinical trial,” said VG Somani, DCGI, during a media briefing today.