After months of waiting, it may finally be your turn to get the vaccine. It’s a reminder that, after months of staying indoors and quarantine, you can return to some semblance of normalcy with COVID appropriate behavior, sooner rather than later. But before you celebrate or make travel plans, it’s always a good idea to read up about the vaccines so you and those around you are armed and ready for this potentially lifesaving step.
Who Is Eligible To Get Vaccinated?
Until recently, in India, vaccinations against COVID-19 were given only to frontline workers and those over the age of 45. Amid a virulent second wave of COVID-19 infections, the Government of India now allows everyone over the age of 18 to get the vaccination starting May 1, 2021 in the third phase of India’s inoculation program.
Things to Know Before, During, And After The Vaccination
Getting vaccinated is a massive moment for you, your family, your community, and the world. You’re not only protecting yourself but also your loved ones and those around you.
This quick overview will help make the process seamless and prepare you for what's coming.
Before you get the COVID-19 vaccine
- Check with your doctor if you can take the vaccine. Especially if you take any prescription medication or have existing health issues. There’s speculation that certain conditions and medications that may suppress your immune system can make it unsafe for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- If you have any doubts, ensure you get in touch with a healthcare worker who can answer your queries. It’s best you use telemedicine or communicate by phone or message.
- Rather than ‘vaccine shopping,’ accept whichever vaccine is available. Eliminate any preconceived notion that one vaccine is superior to the other. In truth, every one of them saves your life from severe illness and helps put an end to this pandemic.
- The CDC recommends against taking antihistamines (medications that treat allergies) or ibuprofen in anticipation of potentially having side effects. If you’re already on such medications or others, please consult your doctor for guidance. Instead, what you can do is plan for side effects. There are a few commonly reported side effects, and you can mentally prepare for them. Don’t stress too much, instead just do what you would normally do, within reason.
- Both vaccines available in India, Bharat Biotech-Indian Council of Medical Research’s Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield require two doses. For both, you have to get the second dose four to eight weeks after the first dose. It’s best you schedule your second shot so you don't miss the window for maximum efficacy.
- The vaccine takes some time to kick in. To make sure your immune system is all powered up to fight off the infection, it's best to take it easy the night before. Make sure you eat nutrient-rich food, drink plenty of fluids and get ample rest. The vaccine may have flu-like symptoms, which you’ll read about shortly, and you don’t want to deal with that on top of already feeling crummy.
- As reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you must get vaccinated if you’ve already recovered from the illness. When you can get the vaccine is best answered by a doctor, especially if you were given convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies.
- According to the CDC, to get any other vaccine, you need to wait at least 14 days after your COVID-19 vaccine. If you have any routine vaccines, make sure you plan accordingly. It’s better to plan as there’s still not enough information on the interactions of other vaccines with the COVID-19 one.
- Lastly, don’t miss your appointment. Missing your appointment means you’re wasting a precious dose. Once the syringes are open, they must be used within four hours or discarded.
During the COVID-19 vaccine
- Indian medical authorities recommend you cover your mouth and nose with a mask and maintain six feet distance from others until it’s time for your vaccination.
- Since the vaccination is administered on your arm, it’s best you wear a loose, short-sleeved shirt or something similar. This makes it comfortable for you and easy for the provider.
- The actual vaccination process is like any other shot. Meaning, the nurse will sterilize a spot on your upper arm and then you’ll get the injection.
- After the vaccine, you must wait in the hospital or clinic for 15 minutes to watch for any side effects. You need to wait even if you feel fine. If you do have an allergic reaction, mild or severe, approach a doctor immediately.
- If you’re due to get the vaccination but have had exposure to someone who tested positive or show symptoms yourself, follow the mandatory protocol of self-isolation, quarantine and reschedule your appointment for a later date.
After you get the COVID-19 vaccine
- While being vaccinated is a freeing feeling, the habits you’ve been practicing are far from over. First and most importantly, the vaccine is a safety net, so it’s better if you don’t let your guard down, especially around those who show symptoms.
- Don’t toss your mask and stop social distancing, because you’re not considered fully vaccinated until14 days after your final dose of the vaccine. So, even after the first dose, you need to strictly follow basic COVID-19 prevention guidelines. Furthermore, it’s essential you stick to safety protocols until authoritative bodies like CDC or WHO deem it’s safe to stop following them.
- After the shot, some people may experience side effects while others don’t. It’s a normal sign that shows your body is building a barrier against the virus. These side effects usually last for a few days then go away. Common side effects include:
o On the arm where you got the shot:
o Rest of your body
- Muscle pain
You can speak with your doctor and take basic over-the-counter medication like antihistamines, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. to relieve any post-vaccination side effects, discomfort, and pain. Along with the medications, you need to:
o Take ample rest
o Drink plenty of fluids
o Avoid strenuous physical activity
o Get enough sleep
o Do as you would with the regular flu.
- If at any point you experience any symptoms, no matter how minor, please report them to a doctor. Not only will the doctor be able to help, but they also pass on the information to researchers and other bodies who track and monitor side effects. Plus, it helps with future vaccine development.
What You Should Keep Doing After The Second Shot?
Side effects may be more intense than the first shot. Again, it’s normal and the way your body builds immunity. You can follow the same protocols as above.
Being fully vaccinated has some advantages, like community-wide resilience against the virus and contributing to herd immunity. However, you need to continue to stay safe and follow norms as with all things COVID; the answers are not absolute and are subject to change.
While there are cases of reinfection after one or both doses of the vaccine, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as on April 21, 2021, it’s two to four per 10,000 people or of the 1.1 crore Covaxin vaccinated beneficiaries only 0.04 percent were re-infected. Similarly for Covishield, of 11.6 crore recipients, after the second dose, only 5,014 (0.03 percent) tested positive. It’s a very small number.
Hence, it’s essential you follow protocols and keep an eye out for common symptoms, especially if you’ve been around someone who tested positive. If you do experience symptoms, stay home and away from others and get tested at the earliest.
What Is Known And What’s Still Under Investigation?
- It’s known that vaccines for COVID-19 are effective at preventing the disease, especially severe illness and death.
o What’s still under investigation is the effectiveness of the vaccine against different variants of the COVID-19 causing virus. Research suggests that it’s advantageous against a few variants, but possibly less against others.
- It’s known preventive steps are extremely essential to stop the spread of the virus, and they continue to be of utmost importance even in the presence of the vaccine.
o It’s still under investigation how well the vaccine keeps people from spreading COVID-19. The more people get vaccinated, the more the learning.
Until the answers to such questions are known, it’s best for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to continue to take steps to protect themselves and others.
How Do You Sign Up For The Covid-19 Vaccine Safely?
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare set up an online digital platform to drive the COVID-19 vaccination program in the country, called ‘CoWIN.’
Through this platform, you have access to real-time information on various COVID-19 vaccine-related information such as individualized tracking of beneficiaries for the COVID-19 vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine stocks, centers near you, etc.
Steps to register for a COVID-19 vaccine:
1. You can self-register yourself on the ‘CoWIN’ platform (cowin.gov.in).
2. After you click on ‘'register/sign in yourself’ enter your phone number and OTP.
3. You will then land on the 'Registration of Vaccination' page. Enter the details as required and click on ‘register.’
4. The GPS system will detect your location and recommend Covid Vaccination Centers (CVC), both available from Government and Private Health Facilities, near you.
5. You can pick and choose a time and place as per your convenience.
While registering, the platform will ask for identity proof and you can use any of the following:
- Aadhar card
- PAN card
- Driving license
- Pension document
- Voter ID
- Post office account passbook
- Bank account passbook
- Service ID that belongs to state or central government agencies/ Public Limited enterprises
After the shot
Once you get the first shot, you will receive an SMS and a provisional certificate. After the second dose, you will get a QR code-based certificate and a link to download the digital certificate of vaccination. Both on your registered mobile number.
On A Positive Note
Amidst all the gloomy news, the vaccine gives everyone a note of optimism. Along with that, owing to the effort made to collect data, everyone also knows a lot more about how to manage this disease better. This goes to show that you’re gaining an upper hand on the pandemic and, with a little patience, the outlook is brightening.
If your COVID-19 vaccine is on your mind, leave all the nervousness or anxiousness behind. For most people, it’s a breeze and you'll be back on your feet in no time! Plus, if you sign up with Loop Health, you'll have dedicated healthcare staff by your side to ensure it goes smoothly.