COVID-19 vaccinations and the build-up to getting them is one of the most hotly discussed topics today, worldwide. Especially in India, where the second wave of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on people’s lives, people are left with questions like, can vaccines help prevent COVID-19, who can get COVID-19 vaccines, where can I get them and how can I get them.
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract that can take a serious turn when it starts infecting the lungs and other organs. Treatment is both expensive and hardcore, so prevention with the use of approved vaccines is the only way to go about getting immunity against the illness.
So, let’s start off first by understanding COVID-19.
What is COVID-19, What are the Symptoms, Effects and Treatments?
COVID-19 is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is contagious from person to person. Infection intensities can range from mild to moderate, to more severe that require medical intervention. COVID-19 patients experience symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, body ache, loss of taste and smell, headaches, breathing difficulty, and more.
The best way to avoid getting infected before getting a vaccine is to maintain social distancing, wearing a mask when in public, and avoiding direct or close contact with infected people.
The severity of infections, the rate at which the infections spread and the rate of fatalities and complications with this infection have all meant a change in lifestyle for all of us. Most countries are still going in and out of lockdowns and have movement curbs to arrest the spread of this virus. Vaccination drives have started around the world, and vaccinations seem to be the only way out of this cyclical loop of infections that come, peak and fall in waves.
Talking of vaccinations, let’s about the different COVID-19 vaccinations in India.
Licensed COVID-19 Vaccines in India
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI has officially licensed and approved two COVID-19 vaccines in India, namely Covishield® (AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin® (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).
While the Russian Sputnik V is reported to be in the production stage after having teamed up with Hyderabad-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, the first doses have been administered in Hyderabad as of May 2021.
Let’s look at these three individually.
Name of vaccine: Covishield®
Manufacturer: Serum Institute of India
Efficacy: Data suggests that this vaccine has an efficacy of about 70%
Countries where it is being administered: At least 40 countries approve the use of this vaccine and you can find the list here.
Known side-effects: According to the WHO, the most common side effects of Covishield® are localised pain at the injection site, tiredness, fever, headache, chills, muscle and joint pain, and nausea.
Name of vaccine: Covaxin®
Manufacturer: Bharat Biotech
Efficacy: The vaccine has an efficacy of over 80%
Countries where it is being administered: Covaxin® is currently approved in 9 countries, namely India, Guyana, Mauritius, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Paraguay, and Zimbabwe.
Known side-effects: The known common side effects of Covaxin® are fever, headache, muscle ache, fatigue, nausea, pain, and redness at the injection site, etc.
Name of vaccine: Sputnik V
Manufacturer: Gamaleya (Russia), local manufacturer in India is Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories
Efficacy: The vaccine has a whopping 92% efficacy rate.
Countries where it is being administered: The Sputnik V vaccine is approved in 68 countries and you can access the complete list here.
Known side-effects: The common side effects of Sputnik V are headaches and fatigue. Recipients may also experience nausea and vomiting, muscle and joint pain, and chills.
Difference between Covishield®, Covaxin® and Sputnik V
Looking at the two approved vaccines first, Covishield® is similar to the Ebola vaccine in a way that it uses a viral vector-based technology. It is the same patented technology used by UK’s AstraZeneca. Covaxin® on the other hand is a vaccine along the lines of influenza, hepatitis A and rabies vaccines since it is a whole-virion inactivated vaccine.
Both vaccines require controlled temperatures between +20 degrees and +8 degrees for transportation and storage. Both vaccines require two doses at a specified interval. For Covishield® the interval between 2 doses can be anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks. The second dose of Covaxin® is required to be taken between 4 to 6 weeks after the first dose.
Vaccines are given as per availability and distribution, so recipients usually do not have a choice of which vaccine they prefer. Vaccine prices in India vary between INR 600 to INR 1200 depending on the type of vaccine and location.
Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine for COVID-19 is an adenoviral vaccine that is also given in two parts. The gap between the two parts has been increased from 3 weeks to 3 months by the makers of the vaccine in April 2021. All three vaccines are given intramuscularly.
Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccines
As is the case with most vaccines, recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine may experience some common side effects such as localized pain at the spot of the injection, mild fever, and body aches. Though there is widespread fear due to half-baked rumors regarding the vaccines, ranging from blood clots and female fertility issues to longer terms side effects, these are rare.
The Health Ministry of India assures citizens that adequate trials have been done and note that the vaccines are effective and have minimal after-effects. Getting vaccinated remains one of the most effective means of COVID-19 prevention, with isolation, mask-wearing, and sanitizing being the other ways.
Who Should Take and Who Should Not Take COVID-19 Vaccines?
Currently, vaccines are not available for children and babies. That said, even those who are 18+ and eligible for vaccines have a priority criterion to get the vaccine jab. Elderly people and people with co-morbidities are urged to get vaccinated first, along with frontline workers such as doctors since they are constantly at risk of getting infected.
Though vaccinations are voluntary, it is advisable to go for them and mandatory to go ahead with both doses, if you have chosen to go ahead with one. If you have questions, get answers to your vaccine-related questions here.
How to Register for Vaccination in India?
All adults in India can now register for COVID-19 vaccinations using the CoWIN platform or the Aarogya setu app. You will have to register using your mobile number of Aadhaar number or use any other identity documents valid in India. Once registered, you will then have to choose a vaccine centre for vaccination and confirm your preferred slot next. Here is the step by step instructions on how to register and what documents can be used for your vaccine registration.
To conclude, vaccination is the only way forward for complete disease eradication, as is the case with most contagious diseases. To this end, even though vaccines are completely voluntary, everyone should consider getting one for a better, safer, healthier future.