Common Questions on COVID-19 Vaccine – Q&A with Dr Subhrojyoti Bhowmick

India has started the second phase of COVID-19 vaccines since March 1. As more and more people get the shots, questions, doubts and fears are on the rise in the country. We have got in touch with Dr Subhrojyoti Bhowmick, MBBS (Cal)(Gold Medallist), MD (Pharmacology), Certified in Patient Safety (Johns Hopkins University, (USA), FISQua (U.K) for his insights on the common queries regarding the vaccine.

A selected excerpt –

1. How do mRNA vaccines work? How do adenovirus vector vaccines work?

The mRNA within the vaccine is covered in a fatty layer, which serves to protect against the immune system when the vaccine is administered. Once the vaccine enters a human cell, the cell makes one of several proteins of COVID-19 virus.

Then, the immune system responds to that protein and produces antibodies. Therefore, if the person does come into contact with COVID-19 virus, they already have the antibodies ready to neutralize the virus. The first dose helps the immune system create a response against COVID-19. The second dose further augments the antibody production for longer term protection.

Like mRNA vaccines, Adeno vector vaccines also do not contain the whole covid19 virus. They use a harmless adenovirus to deliver the gene that allows our cells to make the COVID-19 protein.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are all viral vector vaccines that use different adenoviruses as the delivery system, or vector. Adenoviruses can cause the common cold, and there are many different types of adenoviruses that can infect different species.

2. Who should NOT get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Anyone who has an allergy to the components of the COVID-19 vaccine should not take the vaccine. It is always better to consult a physician before taking your vaccine clearly discussing your medical history. The physician can help you make an informed choice.

3. What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?  Can I take medicine for the side effects after I get the vaccine?

Common side effects include pain at the injection site, redness at the injection site, body ache, malaise, fever. These are usually mild and self-limiting within 48-72 hours. 

Rarely serious adverse effects like anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions can occur but it can be managed with timely medical intervention.

Yes there are medicines for the side effects after you get the vaccine. Commonly, Paracetamol can be taken to lower the pain at the injection site and body ache.

4. If I don’t have side effects, does that mean the vaccine did not work?

No. It does not mean that. Side effects can occur in some percent of people receiving the vaccine and has no correlation with efficacy outcomes.

5. What are the expected long-term side effects of the vaccination for COVID-19?

None reported till date. 

6. Should I stop taking my daily dose of aspirin before getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

No. It is not required.

7. Can my second dose of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine be from a different company?

No. It should not be done. Both doses should be of the same vaccine company.

8. How long do I need to wait if I had or need to get a non-COVID-19 vaccine?

At least 4 weeks from your COVID-19 shot.

9. Are young children susceptible to COVID-19, especially if a parent tests positive?

Yes. They are.

10. Does a vaccinated person present a risk to unvaccinated family members in the same house?

Absolutely not. In fact his or her vaccination makes the family safe  by breaking the chain of infection.

11. Can mRNA vaccines change the DNA of a person?

No. No such case has been reported till date.

12. Can adenovirus-based vaccines change the DNA of a person?

No. No such case has been reported till date.

13. Can I drink alcohol after getting the COVID-19 vaccine?

Better to avoid as alcohol is an immunosuppressive agent.

14. Will booster doses or annual vaccines be needed?

As of now, none of the manufacturers have declared that requirement. Antibody prevalence studies are currently on-going and we will come to know the outcome by next few months following which we will know if a booster or annual dose of the vaccine is required.

15. How long will vaccine immunity last?

Published studies across the globe mention 6-12 months. Antibody prevalence studies are currently on-going and we will come to know the outcome by next few months.

16. Could taking two different vaccines boost the effectiveness?

No such published data exists. This is currently not recommended.

17. How long before a coronavirus vaccine takes effect?

Antibodies have been shown to appear 2 weeks after the 2nd dose of the vaccine.

18. Is the coronavirus vaccine being studied in children?

Yes, clinical trials have been started on covid19 vaccine in children. Pfizer and Bharat Biotech have already started the clinical trials.

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