With the government rolling out the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccination drive across India from January 16, here is an explainer that clears some basic doubts on how to register, who will get the vaccine first, safety and privacy, and whether vaccine interchangeability is allowed.Who would get the vaccine first?
The vaccine rollout will be in a phased manner. In the initial phase, the government said it would inoculate about one crore healthcare workers. This will be followed by two crore frontline workers, police, armed forces, municipal workers, revenue staff and others. In the third phase, 27 crore people above 50 years of age and those with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, and organ transplant patients will get the vaccine. Then the government may give open access via the private market to healthy adults, teenagers, children and lastly to neonates. The central government will be footing the bill for vaccinating three crore healthcare and frontline workers.How do I register for the vaccine?
The government will be soon launching its official mobile app CoWin developed to monitor the COVID-19 vaccine delivery across India and enable people to register to get the vaccine. Once the CoWIN app is launched, one can download the app, submit any one of the twelve photo-identity documents such as voter card, Aadhaar, driving license, among others to register and for verification of beneficiary at session site to ensure that the intended person is vaccinated. Following online registration, the beneficiary will receive an SMS on the due date, place and time of their vaccination. The CoWin app will also give reminders for the second dose, helps one to reschedule the vaccination and report any adverse events. A unique health ID will be generated for each vaccine beneficiary in the CoWIN system, to help the government keep track. A QR code-based digital certificate will be sent via the application to those who have been administered both doses of the coronavirus vaccine. But hang on, for the initial phases of vaccine rollout involving healthcare and frontline, there is no need for self-registration. The details of the beneficiaries will be preloaded by the respective departments on to the CoWin platform, and SMS will be sent to their mobile phones mentioning the due date, place and time of their vaccination.Is data protected on CoWIN ?
The CoWin platform collects individual information and keeps a digital record on who gets vaccinated by whom, when and which vaccine. The Centre is asking states to urge the beneficiaries to seed their current mobile number with Aadhaar for registration and consequent communication through SMS. This is also to weed out proxies. CoWIN is an extension of the electronic vaccine intelligence network eVIN, the cloud-based IT solution platform that's been built to provide real-time feedback of vaccine stocks, power outages, temperature fluctuations, etc. To protect privacy, the data sets did not include names of any stakeholders or any other information that would allow identification of respondents. All physical copies of filled questionnaires and field notes were kept secure and confidential. All electronic data is stored on a password-protected computer while backup of all data and analysis reports has been stored on an external encrypted hard drive. However, there are some concerns about privacy and data protection. Is COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary. However, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of COVID-19 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.What is the age criteria for the vaccine?
While Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield vaccine has been approved for restricted use in emergency situations in individuals 18 years of age and above, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin has been approved for 12 years and above.Can pregnant women get COVID-19 vaccine?
Administration of vaccines on pregnant women should only be considered when the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks for the mother and fetus.If one is taking medicines for illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, can he or she take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, persons with one or more of these co-morbid conditions are considered high-risk categories. They need to get COVID -19 vaccination.Do I have a choice of vaccine?
There are two COVID-19 vaccines available, Serum Institute of India's Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin. At the moment there is no choice, one will have to take whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available at the determined health facility.Who should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Individuals who had severe allergic reactions after a previous dose of the vaccine and had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredients of the vaccine shouldn't take it.Is it necessary for a COVID-19 recovered person to take the vaccine?
Yes, it is advisable to receive a complete schedule of COVID-19 vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19. This will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease.Are there any precautions that one needs to follow at the session site?
One needs to be at the vaccination centre for at least half an hour after taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Inform the nearest health authorities/ANM/ASHA in case of any discomfort or uneasiness subsequently.How many doses of the vaccine would have to be taken and at what interval?
Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule.How is the vaccine delivered into the body?
The vaccines are given as intramuscular injections. Auto-disable syringes are used to prevent cross-infection and reuse of injectables. Around 2 lakh trained vaccinators across India will be deployed to inject people with COVID-19 vaccines.Is there any interchangeability of vaccines?
At the moment interchangeability of vaccines is not allowed. It is recommended that individuals who receive the first dose of Covishield should complete the vaccination course with the second dose of the same vaccine.What if I miss my scheduled dose?
If one forgets to go back at the scheduled time to get a vaccine, one needs to check with the healthcare provider concerned for advice. The CoWIN app is expected to have the facility to reschedule.When would antibodies develop?
Protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.Do I need to still wear masks and maintain social distance even after receiving two doses of vaccine?
Yes, COVID-19 protocols like covering mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others should be continued, as experts need time to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations. The decision will be based on factors like how much percent of the population is vaccinated, how the virus is spreading and new mutations.Will the COVID-19 vaccine protect against mutant strains?
Vaccines are developed taking into consideration the fact that viruses mutate. The COVID-19 vaccines are expected to work against the mutant strains. But studies are underway to find out conclusively that existing COVID-19 vaccines work against mutant strains found in the UK and South Africa.
Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19 so a vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.What are the side effects expected from the COVID-19 vaccine?
The side effects reported by the clinical trial population are mostly mild COVID-like symptoms like low fever and fatigue. Local injection site pain and induration are also reported.What should one do about a serious allergic reaction?
Serious allergic reactions are rare, but if a vaccine recipient experiences a severe allergic reaction, he needs to call or go to the nearest hospital. Call the healthcare provider in case of any side effects that bother or do not go away. In addition, one can report side effects after vaccination to the vaccine makers. For instance Serum Institute of India, the manufacturer of Covishield, has opened a 24 x 7 Call Center Toll-Free Number (For Medical and Adverse Event-Related Queries Only): +91-1800 1200124.Will there be any compensation if there is a grave injury caused by the vaccine?
As of now, insurance companies have said they are not going to cover any vaccine-related damages. They are waiting for the government mandate on this. The government hasn’t given indemnity to vaccine makers. Indemnity is an exemption from legal liability. There is more clarity awaited on this.