Although it has been days since two COVID-19 vaccines were granted restricted emergency use approval by India's drug regulator and the country is preparing for a massive inoculation drive, there's still a large section of the population who are not really sure about what exactly they have to do to sign up for a shot of the long-promised cure against the coronavirus disease.
In a country of 135.26 crores citizens, redemption doesn't come easy. It can be economic or accesible, though, depending on the strata of the society you belong to.
Even so, for the purpose of the millions of Indians confounded amid a sea of government notifications and orders, there are systematic procedures that one can undertake in order to stay in line for the cure, while also being aware of the processes that allow one to be a beneficiary of the same.
Without further ado, here are all your questions, answered:
"Will everyone receive the COVID-19 vaccine simultaneously?"
Firstly, though, it must be clarified that *not everyone* will be receiving the vaccine during the first phase of the vaccination. This is kind of a no-brainer; after all, if everyone received the shot during the 'first' phase, what need there would be of any subsequent phases?
Even so, for the purpose of clarity, the government has notified that nearly 30 crore people will receive the vaccine during the first phase of vaccination.
"Who will receive the shot during the first phase of vaccination?"
For this purpose, the state governments have already started identifying the beneficiaries, on the recommendations of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19.
If you're not a healthcare professional, personnel of India's security forces, or someone above 50 years of age with associated co-morbidities, chances are that you're not going to be a part of the initial gamble.
Who then, if not you, are going to receive the vaccine in the initial phases? Here's the list of priority groups earmarked by the authorities for the initial-stage vaccination:
1. Approximately one crore, healthcare workers (HCWs) healthcare providers and workers in healthcare setting.
2. About two crore frontline Workers (FLWs) which includes personnel from state and central police, armed forces, home guards, civil defence and disaster management volunteers, municipal workers.
3. Approximately 27 crore prioritized age group population above 50 years and persons below 50 years with associated co-morbidities.
"Is it mandatory to take the vaccine?"
Absoutely not. After all, consent is everything, unless you're a militant socialist who thinks healthcare should be forced down the public's throats.
Vaccination for COVID-19 in India 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 the close contacts, including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers.
"How will I know if I'm eligible for vaccination?"
As soon as India starts its mega vaccination drive against the coronavirus, the central government will be unveiling the COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system — the centrepiece of India's ambitious inoculation drive.
It will be available via an app on Android and iPhone at the Google Play Store and the Apple AppStore for free, respectively. The app is reported to be currently in its pre-production stage and hasn't gone live yet.
Citizens will have to self-register on the app, after it becomes available, following which the eligible beneficiaries will be informed through their registered mobile number regarding the health facility where the vaccination will be provided and the scheduled time for the same.
This will be done to avoid any inconvenience in registration and vaccination of beneficiaries. If you're one of the beneficiaries in the first-stage of the vaccination, you'll know via an SMS. If you aren't, you'll know that, too.
Note: Healthcare and frontline workers do not need to register themselves on the CO-WIN app for vaccination, as their details have already been uploaded in bulk by the CO-WIN vaccine delivery management system. They'll be notified automatically regarding the date and time of vaccination.
"If I don't register with the Health Department, can I still receive the vaccine?"
No, even if you don't want to receive the vaccine, please don't be the person who shows up at a vaccination site only to "defy the system". No one likes them, and they aren't helping anyone, in turn, either.
If you're not a healthcare professional, registration with the Health Department (on the CO-WIN app) is mandatory for COVID-19 vaccination. Besides, only after registration will the information on the session site to visit and time be shared with the beneficiary.
"What documents do I required for the registration?"
Any of the below mentioned ID with Photo may be produced at the time of registration:
• Aadhar Card
• Driving License
• Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour
• Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) Job Card
• Official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs
• PAN Card
• Passbooks issued by Bank/Post Office
• Pension Document
• Service Identity Card with photograph issued to employees by Central/ State Govt./ PSUs/Public Limited Companies
• Voter ID
• Smart card issued by RGI under NPR
Note: Photo ID submitted at the time of the registration must be produced for verification at the time of vaccination. So if you are a middle-aged bearded male with glasses and have registered with a current photo, don't show up for vaccination with a photo of your frat goatee from college.
"Say I register on the Co-WIN app after it's available. What now? How do I know when and where to be present for vaccination?"
This part will be more or less self-explanatory as the government releases the app. According to the information that is available currently, after keying yourself onto the system, you will receive an SMS message on the registered mobile number regarding the confirmation of the registration as well as the date, time, and place of vaccination.
You will also be instructed on the steps to follow once you reach the vaccination site. We have already covered this part in a previous piece on the step-by-step guide to coronavirus inoculation in India.
"How will I know the status of my vaccination after the initial dosage is over?"
On getting a due dose of the COVID 19 vaccine, you will receive an SMS on your registered mobile number. After all doses of vaccine are administered, a QR code-based certificate will also be sent to the registered mobile number.
"How many vaccine doses do I actually need?"
Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule. Protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
"If I'm undergoing medical treatments for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc., can I sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine?"
Yes. In fact, persons with one or more of these co-morbid conditions are considered a "high-risk category". They need to get COVID -19 vaccination.
"What about the possible side-effects from COVID-19 vaccine?"
A COVID-19 vaccine will be introduced only when the safety is proven.
As is true for other vaccines, the common side effects in some individuals could be mild fever, pain, etc. at the site of injection.
States have been asked to start making arrangements to deal with any Covid-19 vaccine-related side-effects as one of the measures towards safe vaccine delivery among masses.
"Can a person presently having COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) infection be vaccinated?"
Persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection may increase the risk of spreading the same to others at the vaccination site. For this reason, infected individuals should defer vaccination for 14 days after symptoms resolution.
"If I have already recovered from COVID-19, do I still need to take the vaccine?"
Yes, it is advisable to receive a complete schedule of COVID vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19. This will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease.
There, we hope that clarifies most of the cynic misgivings over the virus and, hopefully, quells some of the apprehension regarding the same.
If one still feels like any of the above instructions are unclear, there's a government helpline number -- 1075 -- to further elucidate on the process.
All of the above answers are sourced from directives issued by the Government of India. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday said that the government is prepared to roll out COVID-19 vaccines within 10 days of granting emergency use authorisation, so hopefully, the widescale inoculation will start soon.
(This "guide", if one might indeed call it so, is non-exhaustive. We will keep updating it as the government sheds more light on the steps detailed here or as more information becomes available.)