How does the vaccination against coronavirus work and what are your alternatives? Is it effective and for how long? If you have these questions in mind, then this article is for you. We address the major queries regarding the COVID-19 vaccination.
With so much information and disinformation floating regarding the vaccination and controversies surrounding their efficacy, many of us are confused about whether to vaccinate or not. Even more so, when it comes to taking a call about getting elderly parents or loved ones with underlying medical conditions to sign up for the shot.
We tell you everything you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccination in India to help you gain clarity.
First things first, let’s understand how any vaccine works. Typically, vaccines are made of inactivated, weekend or killed strains of the organism that they seek to offer protection against. These strains, known as antigens, trigger an immune response in the body, equipping it to tackle the organism, if and when, an infection occurs.
Same is the case with COVID-19 vaccinations too. India is currently using two vaccines – Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, the indigenous vaccine developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Both vaccines require two doses to be administered at least 28 days apart. Both these vaccines also work on the same principle by activating the immune cells to generate antibodies that can attack the novel coronavirus strain, if it enters the body.
Covishield has been made from a weakened strain of adenovirus – or the common cold virus from chimpanzees – which has been modified to resemble the coronavirus. On the other hand, Covaxin is made from killed coronaviruses. Neither causes COVID-19 infection in the recipient’s body.
The efficacy of the vaccine refers to its ability to cut down the risk of getting infected by the coronavirus strain. The Covishield vaccine has an efficacy of up to 63 to 90%, whereas based on Covaxin has an efficacy of 81%. These results are based on preliminary data from trials, neither has been peer-reviewed yet.
This means that a person vaccinated with Covishield is 90% less likely to get COVID even after getting infected with the novel coronavirus. Similarly, for someone vaccinated with Covaxin, the risk is reduced by 81%.
By and large, the beneficiaries cannot choose between the two vaccines. However, as per recent reports, some states may offer that option. For instance, Tamil Nadu is now allowing people to choose between the Covishield and Covaxin. On the other hand, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has maintained that such an option will not be made available to the beneficiaries.
The symptoms and side-effects after the vaccination vary from person to person. Some may experience mild fever, chills, body aches lasting up to 48 hours while others may experience no symptoms at all. Soreness and pain at the sight of the injection are commonly experienced by almost everyone getting vaccinated.
Medical experts not just in India but across the globe agree that it is too early to comment on for how long these vaccines will offer immunity against the novel coronavirus. Only time and more research will offer some concrete insights.
The immunity can last anywhere from a few months to up to 3 years, depending on the person’s health and the type of vaccine given.
As things stand now, booster shots will have to be administered annually to maintain immunity against the virus.
Yes, it is recommended that you continue to follow all COVID norms such as wearing masks in public and remaining physically distanced from others even after getting vaccinated. The reason for this is two-fold. One, no vaccine guarantees 100% protection from COVID. So, you still have a 10-20% risk of getting infected. Second, while you may have immunity against the virus, you can still be a carrier and infect others who are not protected.
The vaccines and scientific understanding of how these will help combat the pandemic are still in their nascent stages. Until more is understood, the new normal of masked, socially distanced way of life is here to stay.