The second phase of COVID-19 vaccination has kicked off to a good start. After healthcare workers, and elderlies, people over the age of 45 are now being prioritized to get doses of two COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in India, Covaxin and Covishield. In a recent announcement the Health Minister announced that all those above 18 years can also receive the vaccine shots now.
Over 8 crore Indian citizens have been already successfully inoculated and lakhs of doses are being exported to other countries as well. Yet, as we are seeing, there still continues to be wavering hesitancy in accepting the domestic vaccines citing fears and discovery of some side effects. There are also certain myths and adverse reactions which scare people from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
While both the vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield which are widely used in India, have been deemed safe for use, and adverse reactions have been rarely observed, there are also certain possible side-effects individuals need to be aware of. Since the people being administered the vaccine right now can also have frail immunity, awareness and knowing what to expect can quash out fears.
The Difference Between CovidShield and Covaxin
Both Covaxin and Covishield have been developed in a similar manner. The only difference between the two is that while Covishield has passed through complete 3 stages of testing, Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech is still in the last scale of study. Both the vaccines are home-grown, traditional vaccines developed using mechanisms that have been depended on for long. Hence, they may be termed relatively safer than other modern vaccines, and carry a lower than usual risk of side-effects. Clinical studies have also proved that Indian vaccines have good efficacy rates right now.
The two vaccines work to build up the antibody count in the body, which will alert the body to unleash protective defences whenever a future attack is suspected. Thus, any vaccine hesitancy rates and misinformation about the same need to be done away with.
Covaxin, which has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech uses an inactive version of the virus. According to the factsheet specified by the company, mild, reactogenic side-effects can be expected post-injection. Some of the side-effects which have been noticed till right now include redness in the arm, pain at the injection site, low-grade temperature, malaise, headache, vomiting, weakness and fatigue. But the scientists have warned that there is very less chance of developing unusual reactions, which can include difficulty breathing, throbbing pulse, erratic heartbeat, swelling, extreme rashes, unnerving fatigue and body pain.
On the other hand the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, marketed in India as Covishield was one of the first competitors in the race and largely considered a safe vaccine to use. However, recent reports from France, regarding certain side-effects made many consider it a bit unsafe for use, especially amongst the senior groups.
The Side Effects of the Vaccines
Test reports of this vaccine suggest that a person can develop some symptoms, on the milder side such as pain, warmth, itching, bruising, fatigue, chills, fever, nausea, muscle ache, lumps and malaise. Severe side-effects such as extremely high temperature, coughing, breathing difficulties, nervous problems, anaphylaxis are possible, though rare. It should be noted that the severe reactions, observed during the clinical studies were ruled out to be unrelated to the vaccine.
Also Coronavirus vaccinations can cause enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit that will show up as white blobs on mammograms in women. “This type of swelling is a normal reaction to the vaccine and will typically occur on the same side as the arm where the shot was given”, said Dr. Geeta Swamy, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Covid vaccine group.
It usually only lasts for a few weeks. Because this type of swelling could be mistaken as a sign of cancer, the Society of Breast Imaging recommends trying to schedule your routine mammogram before your first Covid-19 vaccine dose or at least one month after your second vaccine dose.
Another option is to get the vaccine in your thigh instead of your arm. Doctors recommend a thigh injection for patients who are being treated for breast cancer or who have a history of breast cancer.
Who Should Avoid the Vaccine?
Fertility patients who are scheduled for procedures like egg retrieval, embryo transfer or intrauterine insemination are advised to avoid getting a Covid vaccine within three days before and three days after the procedure. That’s because patients undergoing surgical procedures could develop vaccine-related side effects like fever or chills that might make it difficult for doctors to know if a post-surgical infection is brewing. If you manage to get a vaccine appointment and you are scheduled to undergo a fertility procedure, tell your fertility doctor right away so that you can plan any surgical procedures, testing or treatment.
Also some women say they have observed changes in the flow or timing of their period after getting vaccinated. But so far this is purely anecdotal. However according to the reports, it’s unlikely that the Covid vaccine would affect menstrual cycles, and there’s no plausible biological mechanism by which this would occur. However, there is little data on this topic.
Right now, while people aren’t allowed the choice to choose the COVID vaccine, either in India or outside, certain pre-existing conditions and problems may make some people skip out on a certain vaccine dose. This is also the reason people with allergies, comorbidities have been asked to get a doctor’s consult before progressing.
Covaxin dose may be slightly unsafe for people who might be running a fever at the time of administration, are on blood-thinning medications, suffering from immune disorders, bleeding problems. Pregnant/ lactating women, ones suffering from an immune deficiency/ or on any sort of immuno drugs may be offered a choice to either delay vaccination, or get the other vaccine dose of their choice.
With Covishield, the one thing to be careful about includes any pre-existing allergy you may have. According to guidelines, if people have had a bad reaction, allergy or are sensitive to certain foods/ ingredients which might be present in the Covishield dose, may prefer skipping the dose, or getting a prior consult first.
Even though vaccine-related adverse reactions are on the rarer side, there are certain protocols set in place which can allow authorities to deal with the unpleasant side-effect in the right way, and get the medical attention it deserves.
Most side-effects, including the serious ones, can be treated if medical help is accessed in time. Milder side-effects usually resolve in a matter of 2-3 days and do not require much attention. If a person does happen to develop a bad rash, swelling or allergy from the first shot, he/she will be advised to postpone getting the second vaccine dose right now.
If you have mild side effects like headache or a low fever, it’s actually a good thing, because it means your immune system is ramping up. A lack of side effects, however, does not mean the vaccine isn’t working and you should be hesitant to get the second dose.