As India undertakes a massive immunization drive to protect the citizens from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been several myths and misconceptions regarding the vaccine and the various stages at which an individual is safe to get vaccinated.
An all-expert panel comprising of Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director and Head of Emetology Dept, Fortis Hospital, Dr BL Sherwal from Delhi and Dr Rishma Dhillon Pai, gynaecologist and infertility specialist on Friday busted some of these myths surrounding Coronavirus vaccines.
Q1: Is it safe for pregnant women or lactating mothers to get vaccinated? Does it affect women’s menstrual cycle?
According to Dr Rishma Dhillon, women can take the vaccine at any stage of their menstrual cycle. There is no negative impact from the vaccines on women with PCOD. However, pregnancy is an issue. The Health Ministry has said that pregnant women and lactating mothers will not be allowed to take vaccines for now. This issue of not vaccinating pregnant women affects 50 million lives at present, she said.
“In our gynaecology federation and the international federation, many believe that we should go ahead and vaccinate expecting mothers as they are at high risk of infection. If they contract COVID-19, there are chances of severe illness, requiring ICU care and even premature deliveries,” Dr Dhillon said.
Notably, the CTC USA states that 100,000 pregnant women have received vaccination and no major side effects have been seen so far. There are lots of myths floating around vaccination of expecting women and it is fairly safe to get the vaccine, says Dr Dhillon.
Q2: Is the vaccine safe for people suffering from comorbidities? What should they do?
Dr Bhargava said the vaccine has no effect on people who have allergies. “If you are on blood thinners or medication, you can wait for 4 to 5 days before vaccination. Both vaccines are safe, just take it on time and the said period.” He assured that the vaccine is safe even for people having diabetes, chronic kidney illness, hypertension or even cancer.
Q3: If people experience side effects after vaccination, what should they do?
Dr Sherwal said, initially there were complaints of side effects of the vaccine, but after a lot of scrutiny medical practitioners have found that there are no major side effects of the vaccine. Some of the post-vaccination discomforts include body ache, headache, diarrhoea and mild fever. However, these effects will settle in a day or so and there is nothing to worry about. If one feels the need, he or she can take paracetamol and they will be alright, he said.
“Some people react promptly and raise doubts about the vaccine after they experience some discomfort. We should to counsel them and help them understand that the side effect outweighs the advantage of the vaccine, which is extremely important to combat the virus,” Dr Sherwal said.
Q4: How do vaccines affect toddlers and babies, whose mothers have been inoculated?
Speaking of pregnant women, there is not much information about the effect on the baby in the first trimester of pregnancy, but the vaccine does not seem to affect the baby in the second half of pregnancy at all, said Dr Rishma Dhillon.
“After the vaccination is given, it causes the antibodies to go from the umbilical cord to the baby, thus protecting the child it from the virus. Unfortunately, most of the studies of vaccination in pregnancy are based on the United States and we do not have enough studies to prove this on the Indian vaccines,” she added.
According to Dr Dhillon, the risk of vaccination among pregnant women is much lesser and the advantage is much higher. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Q5: For people who contracted COVID-19, when can they get vaccinated?
Dr Rahul Bhargava says people can take their first vaccine jab 14 to 28 days after recovery from COVID-19. A person who received the first jab and gets infection may still get the second dose after recovery, he added. Please maintain the time period between the vaccines.
Q6: Can we donate plasma after getting vaccinated?
Dr BL Sherwal says around 4 weeks after recovery when the antibody level is at its peak, doctors suggested patients to go for plasma donation. If their antibody level is adequate, they can donate as many times as possible. There are no side effects. However, after getting vaccinated, they cannot donate plasma, he said.