COVID19 Vaccine Fact Vs Myth| Q&A with Dr. Suvro Banerjee

COVID19 Vaccine is here. This has brought a bright ray of hope that the pandemic will soon end. But doctors and scientists all over the world are of the opinion that even after we get the dose/s, we will not be able to return to normal life immediately. On the other hand, a plethora of questions, doubts and misconceptions have shrouded the vaccines as well.

We at Stoodnt got in touch with Dr. Suvro Banerjee, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, Kolkata, who has already taken the first shot of Covishield vaccine, to know the hard facts regarding COVID19 vaccines.

A selected excerpt –

Which lasts longer immunity after getting COVID or protection from COVID19 vaccine?

COVID19 infection will induce an immunity to last for a few months but it is being postulated that COVID vaccine will induce a stronger immunity for a much longer period of time.

However, it is too premature at this moment to answer these questions, as we still do not know how long the immunity will last. Also there is a possibility that there could be mutations in the COVID strain. In that case the vaccine may not be effective and some alterations in the vaccine might then become necessary. 

What percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to attain herd immunity?

We cannot be certain of the percentage yet, different authorities have quoted different figures, but on the whole it appears that at least 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated or get a natural infection to attain some sort of hard immunity

What are the ingredients in COVID19 vaccine?

The ingredients differ to some extent depending upon what sort of vaccine we are talking about. There are three vaccines that are widely available are – Pfizer, Moderna and Covishield. Pfizer and Moderna use RNA to reproduce proteins in the human cells which are similar in structure to corona virus protein. The body then produces antobodies against the proteins. 

Covisheild uses DNA as a Platform, which utilises an Adenovirus as a vector to put the DNA Code into the human cell. Antibodies are then produced by our body against these DNA segments. There are other constituents as well, like lipids, salts and sucrose which may be more or less similar in all the vaccines.

Those who have recovered from COVID19, do they need the vaccine?

The answer is yes because immunity from natural infection is believed to last for a short time. But this vaccine is supposed to induce a longer immunity. Hence, patients recovered from COVID19 may need to be vaccinated after a period of time.

Does one still need to wear a mask and maintain social distance after getting COVID19 vaccine?

Yes, they would still need to wear a mask and maintain social distance. Because vaccination may not necessarily prevent infection. What it would do is reduce the severity of the disease which may develop from the infection. One can still get an infection and a mild form of disease and pass it on to others who do not have strong immunity.

So it is very important not only for yourself but also for others that you wear a mask and maintain social distance, even after getting the shots.

Will the vaccine be safe as it is being tested and introduced in a short span of time?

It is true that for efficient development of vaccination and to judge its safety and efficacy, usually a longer period of time is necessary. However, in this case time was not on our side so the vaccination had to be introduced in a short span of time. However, all efforts have been taken to see that it is not only effective but also safe. That said, we will have to keep in mind that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have used an mRNA technology, which is probably used for the first time in vaccination, so we still do not know whether there will be any long term side effects from them.

However, the technology that they have used in producing the Oxford, AstraZeneca vaccine, has been used in the production of other vaccines in the past. So probably less likely to be unsafe than the other two. But, again we still do not know for sure and these are all speculations. All vaccines may turn out to be equally safe after considerable follow up.

Read Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vs Covaxin vs Pfizer & Moderna – How the COVID19 Vaccines Work.

Is it mandatory to take the vaccine? How many shots of COVID19 vaccine will be needed?

It’s strongly recommended that you take the vaccination provided you do not have any of the contraindication. However, it is not compulsory and depends ultimately on what you want to do, and you are free to decline if you want. But I would think it is important that you take the vaccine as we have to attain a sort of herd immunity to prevent the disease from spreading.

Unless you have a contraindication, I would strongly recommend that you take the vaccination. All the available vaccination programs recommend two shots to be taken at a certain interval of time. Whether you would need the vaccination to be repeated after a year or a couple of years, we still do not know. That time can only say.

Can one get COVID19 vaccine along with other vaccines?

It’s perfectly safe for someone to take COVID19 vaccine if he or she has taken the vaccine for anything else. But normally some period of gap is recommended between two vaccinations.

If one is taking medicines for illnesses like Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension etc, can she/he take the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, if there has not been any contraindication reported for illness like cancer, diabetes and hypertension, one can take the vaccine. And if they are taking medication for their conditions, it is perfectly ok to take COVID19 vaccination. There is some concern with Covaxin (the India made vaccine now available in India) in patients taking blood thinners.

Are there any preventive measures and precautions that one needs to follow, before and after the vaccine?

Before getting the vaccination, it is important to make sure you are not having any fever or any illness. That would be a contraindication to take the vaccination. Illness in the form of viral or bacterial illness or especially any fever. You need to get rid of it first and then only take the vaccination.

Secondly, there are some suggestions to avoid taking anti inflammatory drugs just before the vaccination, especially painkillers, to avoid pain following vaccination. Because pain is seldom severe. But there are some suggestions that anti inflammatory drugs may prevent boosting the immunity following vaccination.

However, after the vaccination if you develop pain, you can take Paracetamol which is not contraindicated. And also after the vaccination remember that it would take some time for the immunity to be boosted. So, at least till you get the second dose and may be a few weeks thereafter, you take all precautions that you are taking now .

What are the possible side-effects from COVID-19 vaccine?  

A few cases have been reported of severe allergy or anaphylaxis occurring after COVID19 vaccine. If you have a history of severe allergy you must consult your doctor before taking the vaccination. Also, ladies who are pregnant or are breastfeeding should avoid taking the vaccination. As at this stage, as we do not know the effects of the vaccine in these groups of individuals.

The other side effects from the vaccination could be a bit of local pain in the vaccinated site. Also a bit of weakness or fatigue, fever, Sinusitis, headache. But these side effects last for a very short period of time and often happen 24 hours after taking the vaccine. But they do go away soon and are seldom disabling.

When would the antibodies develop? After taking the first dose, after taking the second dose or much later?

Antibodies would start developing even after the first dose but, with time. After a few weeks of taking the first shot, the antibody production would be accelerated. To get an optimal antibody production, the second dose will be necessary which would be some sort of a booster dose. And may be after a few days or weeks following the second dose, you would have the optimal level of antibody in your blood.

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