Getting immunised against COVID-19 will be a voluntary exercise and it is important that both dozes of the vaccine be administered to an individual for developing better immune response against the disease, AIIMS Director Dr. Randeep Guleria has said.
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Protective levels of antibodies generally develop two weeks after receiving the second dose, he said.
The senior pulmonologist also stressed that the vaccine introduced in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed by other countries.
With the COVID-19 vaccine expected to be rolled out within a few days, Dr. Guleria answered some FAQs about the vaccination drive in a video uploaded on the health ministry's website.
He responded to questions such as whether taking the coronavirus vaccine was mandatory, how long does it take for the antibodies to develop and if it was necessary for a COVID-recovered person to take the vaccine.
He said while getting inoculated against COVID-19 will be voluntary, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of the vaccine irrespective of past history of infection as this will help develop better immune response against the disease. "Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary. However, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of the vaccine for protecting oneself against this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers," Dr. Guleria said.
On whether a person with an active COVID-19 infection can be vaccinated, Dr. Guleria said a person with active and symptomatic coronavirus infection may increase the risk of spreading the virus to others at the vaccination site and thus, infected individuals should defer vaccination for at least 14 days after the symptoms are resolved.
He said individuals who have one or more co-morbid conditions should take the vaccine because they fall in the high-risk category and should protect themselves. He added that their medications will not interfere with vaccine efficacy.
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Elaborating on the possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Guleria said as is true for other vaccines, there could be some degree of side effects in some individuals which could be in the form of mild fever, pain at the site of injection, body ache, etc. States have been asked to make arrangements to deal with any COVID-19 vaccine related side effects as one of the measures towards safe vaccine delivery. Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be administered to an individual to complete the vaccination schedule, Dr. Guleria said.
He further said the government has selected priority groups who will be vaccinated. The first group includes healthcare and frontline workers, while the second group will comprise of people over 50 years of age as well as those below 50 years with co-morbid conditions. The eligible beneficiaries will be informed through their registered mobile numbers regarding the healthcare facility where the vaccination will be provided and the scheduled time for the same. This will be done to avoid any inconvenience in registration and vaccination of beneficiaries, he said. Dr. Guleria further clarified that registration of a beneficiary is mandatory for vaccination for COVID-19. Only after registration on the official portal, the information on the session site to visit and time will be shared with the beneficiary.
Following online registration, the beneficiary will receive an SMS on their registered mobile number informing about the due date, place and time of vaccination. A valid ID with photo such as driving license, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) job card, PAN card, passbooks issued by Bank/Post Office, passport, pension document, service identity card issued to employees by Central/ State Govt./ Public Limited Companies and voter ID may be produced at the time of registration.
On the preventive measures and precautions that one needs to follow at the session site, Dr. Guleria said one should rest at the vaccination centre for at least half an hour after taking the COVID-19 vaccine and any symptoms or discomfort must be reported to the nearest medical professional such as ANM (auxiliary nursing midwife) or ASHA worker.