With due apologies to Kahlil Gibran!
Vaccination for protection against COVID19 began in mid Jan 2021, with Health Care Workers being focused upon, subsequently, other ‘Frontline workers’ were included in the prioritization list. After the government machinery got its logistics systems up and running, through an internet based CO-WIN system, the vaccination umbrella was extended on 01 Mar 2021 to cover those above 60 years of age and also those in the 45-60 years age group with a co -morbidity which needed to be certified by a medical doctor. This has been modified again whereby w.e.f 01 May 2021, all people above 18 years of age have been made eligible for corona vaccination.
Just to reassure you and your families, in case you have not yet been covered by the vaccine umbrella….. Everyone who is above 18 years of age will eventually be getting the vaccine as and when the supply chain gets its act together. At present this age / risk stratified approach is just a method adopted to ration scarce resources (yes, ,vaccine diplomacy is an essential part of the global outlook of the Govt and we must accept that global equity is desirable for all societies, so its not as if the exported vaccine could have been given to you and me). Trials are on for other categories to assure safety, including pregnant women and children.
There has been a lot of confusion prevalent in people’s minds, exacerbated by social media misinformation, about the gap to be maintained between doses of the vaccine. The Govt of India has recently (in May) issued instructions to the States, taking cognizance of the increasing scientific evidence to increase the gap between doses from the original 28 days (which by the way, was not a sacrosanct gap…..it was just intended to serve as a point of reference for the common man). And again, this situation highlights that in the governance of a country, decisions do take time, after all the evidence has been digested. As some wise person said a while ago, it is better to be somewhat right about things most of the time, than to be absolutely wrong about things, all the time! Erring on the side of caution, not being hasty and being deliberate in decision making is what one expects from leadership of a nation. That is how Public Health functions ! May seem slow, but circumspect deliberateness is what I would expect even if seemingly delayed.
The current (latest as on 22 May 2021) Govt guidance for folks on the subcontinent, is to obtain the second dose of COVAXIN in the time frame of four to six weeks (I am recommending pushing this limit to the six weeks margin), and for COVISHIELD to be taken after twelve to sixteen weeks (again, here I am recommending pushing this limit to the sixteen weeks margin). Even before these guidelines were issued today, I was advocating a longer gap, as the past few decades of vaccination history the world over, has shown that better immunity is obtained when there is a suitable gap between doses of a vaccine. Now, vaccine experience in the COVID scenario is pointing towards this understanding!
Please keep in mind that if you have taken COVISHIELD in the first dose, then you need to take the same vaccine in the second dose, and go to a centre which will provide you the same. You may or may not get a SMS reminder from the COWIN system, just schedule your appointment based on the outer limit of the gap and go for it!
For those who have already received two doses of any vaccine, even if you have strictly adhered to the 28 day gap originally dictated, you need not worry. Hopefully you will have acquired some level of protective immunity, and while there is no knowledge as of now about the requirement of a booster dose, you should be as ‘safe’ as if you had a longer gap between doses. The available vaccines are intended to provide you with protection from getting severely sick.
And yes, we all, irrespective of having received one dose, two doses, gap of 28 days or more, or even no vaccine, …..we all will have to continue to follow COVID Appropriate Behaviour.… till such time as the pandemic is truly tamed, which might take any where from a few months to a year or more. i.e Wear a mask in public spaces, disinfect hands periodically, avoid touching our face, Avoiding Crowds, Crowded Places and Close Contact.
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