With two COVID-19 vaccines now approved for use in India and doses administered to around 10 lakh healthcare workers, the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic ending shortly has grown closer. With Covishield and Covaxin set to soon become available to an increasing number of people, questions abound about the enrollment process, the vaccine itself and more.
From enrolling on the CoWIN app to possible risks after you receive the doses - here's a complete checklist of sorts:
1. How to know if you're eligible
In the current phase of inoculation, around 30 crore people are being given the vaccine. This includes healthcare and essential workers, followed by people above the age of 50 and those with co-morbidities. 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.
The CoWin app will eventually be used by all people to register for the vaccine. However, the app is still in a developmental stage, and as such is not available on the Google or Apple stores. Presently, only officials have access to the app.
Note however that it is not mandatory to take any COVID-19 vaccine.
2. What do you need to register?
While the app is not functional yet, people will eventually need to upload a photo identity card to register themselves. Presently, those who have made it to the vaccination list are required to provide identification before they receive the jab at various centres across the country.
3. What is the cost?
The Central government had announced earlier that the vaccine would be made available free of cost to frontline workers. While costs for the general public have not yet been announced, price estimates given by the Serum Institute of India suggest that Covishield at least will be priced at around Rs 200 to Rs 300 for the government and is likely to retail at private markets for double that amount eventually. The price is likely to rise for private players after the first 100 million doses are out.
4. Is getting the vaccine safe? Which vaccine should you take?
While it is possible to have an allergic reaction to the COVID-19 vaccines, four days into the inoculation drive, India had recorded only 0.18% adverse reactions had been reported. However, it must be mentioned that several people had been affected by the virus, with a few requiring hospitalisation.
Four people have passed away after inoculation. However the Centre says that three of these deaths were unrelated to the vaccine they received. The post-mortem for the final individual is underway.
Coming to the question of which vaccine should be taken, at present there is no choice available for the general populace. You also cannot take doses from different vaccines.
5. Can you still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated?
Both Covaxin and Covishield are two-dose vaccines, and as such people continue to be at risk while they are completing the full period of inoculation. According to the Health Ministry, protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
However, it must be mentioned that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield is the version of this vaccine developed by Serum Institute) has an efficacy of around 70% on average. While trials for Covaxin continue, it is estimated that it will have an efficacy of around 50%. As such, it is unclear whether it will be as effective as say, the Pfizer vaccine (which has an efficacy of around 95%). Both Covaxin and Covishield are however likely to be above the benchmark of 50% set by Indian authorities for a vaccine candidate to be accepted.
Officials have repeatedly urged people to continue following social distancing protocol and wearing masks even after receiving two does of the vaccine, as they wait for mass immunisation.
6. Are there any food restrictions or unrelated threats?
For 45 days after getting vaccinated, experts say that people must refrain from drinking alcohol.
Another myth that has been making the rounds it that the vaccine can cause infertility in men and women. This is not true - there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 virus or the vaccine can cause infertility.