COVID Vaccine Tales Part 3 : Side Effects- Should you be worried?

Vaccines save lives! There can be no further debate on this! Since the past 100 years or so, vaccines have transformed human survival in the ongoing fight against microbes . These vaccines are virtually the only specific protection we have against our microscopic enemies (i.e for those which we have vaccines against).

COVID-19 affects all age groups; however, morbidity & mortality is several times higher in adults particularly in those above the age of 50 years and those with co-morbidities such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity (amongst a long list of such). Children usually have either asymptomatic or mild infection. The Govt of India has prioritized availability of vaccines (at present , in mid Mar 2021 subject to change in the days ahead) to those above 60 years and those in the 45-60 age group with specified co-morbidities. Eventually, as and when more and more of the ‘higher’ risk population is covered, the Govt will surely include the rest of the population in a phased manner, i.e all those above 18 years of age. Given the size of our population this will take a few months for sure. So if you are young(er) , have patience! Apna time aayega!

The currently available vaccines have not been thoroughly evaluated in children so far . There are now clinical trials underway to test the effectiveness and safety of the COVID 19 vaccines in children. Whenever this phase is satisfactorily completed, I am sure that the suitable vaccine will be provided for children too! There need not be ‘vaccine envy’ within a family…. it is essential for their well being to reassure young and old alike, that prevention remains best in the form of avoidance of crowds, crowded spaces and close contact. The vaccine is just another tool .

Side Effects : For those who have been vaccinated already (i.e those who have received even one dose of any COVID vaccine), there would have been apprehension about ‘Adverse Effects’ and ‘Side Effects’. For those who are yet to get the vaccine, there would be more apprehension, in case you have been reading about Adverse Effects or Side Effects in the news or through the Univ of WhatsApp. Relax, chill! Take a deep breath and a long sip of cool water!

Some mild symptoms may occur such as injection site tenderness, injection site pain, headache, fatigue, myalgia (muscle aches and pains), malaise (feeling unwell), pyrexia (low grade fever), chills and arthralgia (pain in joints), nausea (feeling vomitish). Please disregard media reportage of very rare events of disorders following vaccination with these vaccines. The rarer it is, the less likely that you will be affected !

Share in others misery : Here is a compilation of unedited comments from a cross section of people who received the vaccine in March from across India . For those who have already received a dose of the vaccine, you may relate to some of this:

“I was alright till I drifted off to sleep. At 5.30 am when I woke up, I had a severe backache- worse than ever. I could barely straighten myself. By midday I was running low grade fever- a complete day 0 for me. Next day slight backache persisted , felt better largely. Day 3 – I am ok.”

“I didnt feel anything at all! I even played 9 holes of golf the next day, and I am 72 years old”

“I started feeling dizzy by evening . I even felt disoriented and my body ache was horrible. Felt so feverish that couldn’t eat much. Next day I felt slightly better”

“My arm, where I had the shot became stiff and painful. Luckily I was fine otherwise. The pain became ok the next morning when I woke up”

“Through the day I stayed well- told myself “ you will be fine!” and then body ache started with fever- did I speak too soon? Only reason I forced myself to eat was to take a tablet”.

“What nonsense are people talking about, when I am feeling hale and hearty- these are all faint hearted people imagining reactions” , said some.

“I felt listless for the whole day- didn’t want to do anything at all, and then by evening I was fine”.

Recommendations for dealing with side effects : Firstly, please accept that side effects may occur. Next, avoid physical exertion for at least a day after the jab. Drink lots of water, eat nourishing meals and avoid alcohol or tobacco in the day(s) after the jab. If you feel slightly unwell, you can consider taking a paracetamol tablet (after something to eat, with a full glass of water). If feeling very unwell, consult your doctor on telephone sooner than later. [Its best that you be the judge of how ‘unwell’ you feel] You can have a look at this link to the CDC USA website giving you info about side effects…..

Common Misconceptions : “Alcohol cannot be consumed for upto 45 days after vaccination” Be reassured! If you are an occasional consumer of the spirit that cheers, do not get overly perturbed. Going by reports , this recommendation was essentially targeted at those receiving the Sputnik vaccine , as the consumption of alcohol in Russia is much higher than elsewhere, and it is a known fact that excessive alcohol consumption affects the immune system. My advice is If you drink, drink less, If you dont drink , dont start!!” And, yes, definitely avoid alcohol on the day of your vaccination and drink less in the days afterwards, if its possible, better for your health overall, to not drink at all.

Will I test positive on the corona test after the vaccine ?” Getting the vaccine will not make you test positive for COVID-19 on a Rapid test or a PCR test. If you test positive and it’s an accurate result, you were most likely exposed before you got the vaccine or before the protection kicked in.

How long does it take for the protection effect of the COVID vaccine to set in?” This is still being studied and we will know for sure only a few months later. As of now, it is reasonably assumed that within two to three weeks after completion of a two dose schedule of the vaccine (whichever), some immunity will be established for sure.

If I dont get any side effects after the vaccine, it means that the vaccine has not worked” Not true. Some people develop side effects, and some people dont. Which does not mean that the vaccine has ‘not worked’.

Do I need to wear masks / follow other COVID Appropriate Behaviour after receiving the vaccine?” Yes, it is absolutely necessary that everyone who has received the COVID vaccine should continue to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour i.e., Wear masks, Keep Physical Distance, and undertake frequent hand sanitization to protect themselves and those around from spreading the infection.

How long will I remain protected after vaccination?” Longevity of the immune response in vaccinated individuals is yet to be determined as there is not much we know about the duration of protection , given that this coronavirus and its vaccine is new on the scene.

I had COVID last year, hence I do not need the vaccine” The current recommendations are for people to be vaccinated irrespective of their past history of having COVID, with a gap of at least a few weeks after having recovered.

I have been vaccinated, now I am safe, I will not get infected ” Not true. The vaccine is just going to protect you (hopefully) to some extent from getting seriously sick. The vaccine doesnt prevent you from getting infected and spreading it to your loved ones. You still can get infected with the virus and can even become an asymptomatic carrier.

Please share this post with your friends and family. Let us work together to dispel misconceptions and address vaccine hesitancy. Please post your additional queries in the Comments section for these to be addressed in subsequent posts.

Published by Delta Zulu Consultancy

I am a Public Health Specialist with a passion for sustainable promotion of human co-existence with the environment! My areas of interest and expertise are Health Risk Communication and Community Engagement, Food Safety, Environmental Medicine and Mass Gathering Medicine. I believe in leveraging the power of technology to capture the imagination of people to inspire them to achieve their health potential, in a sustainable manner. I aspire to empower my partners and motivate stake holders to consistently seek 'work around' solutions, while hoping to achieve an utopian ideal balance.

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