Common questions about COVID Vaccines?
- If we get the option, should we choose Covaxin or Covishield?
- Should we wait for the Russian or the made-in-US Pfizer vaccine?
- Which of these vaccines have minimum side effects?
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Is it safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines are safe, and getting vaccinated will help protect us against developing severe COVID-19 disease and dying from COVID-19. We may experience some mild side effects after getting vaccinated, which are signs that our body is building protection.
First we will get to know about the side effects.
What are the common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?
When we get any vaccine, the vaccinated area may pain a little or get swollen. These are known as the local side effects.
And the other kind of side effects are the Systemic Side Effects. These may include fever, headaches, many people feel fatigued. These effects last for a couple of days and then person will be fine.
In Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines these side effects are fewer after the first dose. But are more common after the second dose.
In the AstraZeneca vaccine, the side effects are more after the first dose. And few after the second dose.
These are the common side effects but there are some rare side effects of the vaccines as well which varies from person to person depending on his health conditions.
What percentage of people suffer from these common side effects approximately?
The common side effects are seen in 10-35% of people only.
For AstraZeneca, it is seen that this combination of fever and headache occurs in only one out of three people.
Am I at a higher risk for getting the side effects if I have some pre-existing condition?
There is no any proven theory for this. That means we can’t be sure that the risk factor may cause one person to get a side effect more than another but nothing like that has been identified yet.
It is known as Idiosyncratic. We don’t know whom it’s going to affect. So there is no way of predicting.
But now it seems like this might be a Class Effect. It means that these might be seen in all the Adenovirus vectored vaccines. This is also seen in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
So does Indian Covaxin have any such side effects?
Still millions of people haven’t got this vaccine so there are no any predictions.
What are the Categories of Vaccines?
All the vaccines can be divided into 3 categories based on how they work.
First category is the inactivated vaccines, like Covaxin.
A virus is produced in a lab and treated with chemicals to inactivate it. It means that it isn’t harmful to our body.
And then this virus is used as an inactivated vaccine. This is how Covaxin works.
Second category is the Viral Vector Vaccine.
Covishield and Russia’s Sputnik V both belongs to this category.
Consider Covishield as an example.
In Covishield, a Chimpanzee Adenovirus is taken. Adenovirus is the name of a family of viruses. The genetic code in the chimpanzee virus is replaced with the genetic code of the SARS-COV2 virus. SARS-COV2 is the virus that causes Covid-19. So a chimpanzee virus that has the genetic code of SARS-COV2 works like a vaccine in our body. This is known as Viral Vector Vaccine.
Why it is a called as a Vector Vaccine?
To get it clear let us consider this example: Mosquitoes are often called vectors of dengue and malaria because these mosquitoes carry these diseases and infect us.
Similarly, this chimpanzee virus works as a vector. It is getting into our bodies and infecting us with the SARS-COV2 genetic code. So that our body can build up immunity against it.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is also a viral vector vaccine. But instead of Chimpanzee Adenovirus it uses Human Adenovirus.
Third category is the mRNA vaccines.
Examples are Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccine.
This is image of the SARS-COV2 virus that causes Covid-19.
The red things coming out of the ball-shaped thing are called “Spike Proteins”.
mRNA is taken from these Spiked Proteins and used to create the vaccines. All we know that the human body has DNA. Similarly, viruses have RNA. DNA is double-stranded and RNA is a single strand. mRNA means Messenger RNA. mRNA is extracted from the Spike Protein and it acts as a vaccine in the body.
Which vaccine should we choose if given a choice?
Covaxin or Covishield or should they wait for Pfizer to arrive?
Relative advantages and disadvantages
We will have to take 2 doses of Covaxin; 4 weeks apart.
The vaccine’s effect will be after 6 weeks. The entire immunization will be complete and protection will start. The interim data shows that that there will be 81% protection after both doses.
After taking only 1 dose of Covishield the protection is around 70%. For taking the second dose, it is better to delay it as it has better efficacy.
And pregnant women?
When the vaccines were initially licensed for restricted use and emergency use then it was said that pregnant women and breastfeeding women should not be vaccinated. Because the vaccines haven’t been tested on them in India. But we can consult with our doctors for any specific situations.
Will all these vaccines work against all of these new strains?
Till now the UK strain is very transmissible. But all the vaccines are working properly.
In Israel, the Pfizer vaccine is being used. Taking only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine does not give protection. But after 2 weeks from the second dose, there aren’t any infections of the South African strain.
What will happen if we take only 1 dose of the vaccine?
If we can’t get the second dose because of the shortage.
Then, wait for it. But don’t miss it. If second dose is avoided, percentage of infections might be increased with time.
What will happen if we have taken the first dose and then we got infected?
If we have got infected, it is important that we know that these vaccines do work. If we get infected, then our symptoms will mostly be mild. Either there will not be any symptoms or they’ll be mild.
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