Already had COVID-19? What next?

In India as of 19th Jun 2021, though we have had many cases of COVID-19 across the country, affecting all strata of society (2,98,23,546 cases to date- as per , to give us a reality check, just about 2 out of every 100 Indians has experienced the disease, and the large majority of those, have got through unscathed with mild or asymptomatic infections. Maybe an even larger number did not get diagnosed, but suffered all the same. This would indeed be the most likely scenario given the state of reporting of diseases and the fragmented healthcare system.

By now, over a year and a half into the pandemic, we may personally know someone who has had COVID-19, or we may ourselves have been affected.

Even if you have been infected, and recovered, you still need to wear a mask at all times, when interacting with others, while maintaining physical distance. It is also advisable to take the vaccine (any), about 90 days after recovery. However, do check with your doctor, as these recommendations are evolving and updated frequently by the Govt of India based on emerging evidence.

Source : Tata Trusts

If you are one of those who has recovered, you need to pay special attention to avoiding known long-term effects on your respiratory system, by continuing efforts at deep breathing exercises and eating healthy.

Bottomline Those who have recovered from COVID-19, can get infected again. They need to continue COVID Appropriate Behaviour and take a vaccine when available / when due.

Recovery and restoration of baseline health and fitness after COVID-19 is a challenge for many. Fortunately, a sensible approach will reap dividends when prudence is kept the bedrock.

For those who have never exercised or just waddled their way through life so far, before COVID, this is the time to seriously consider taking up some form of exercise that is sustainable. Do not rush into a gym membership, or buy that expensive cycle, without first figuring out what should be the path to exercise that you will tread on nimbly, in the decades ahead, to stay healthy.

For those of you, who were “into fitness”, reconsider your goals, and reset your standards.

You must and should take it slowly!

“Listen to your body” – this is keystone of any approach that you choose to adopt in the days ahead.

We have become accustomed to hearing ever so often, “No Pain, No Gain”, however our new lexicon has to adapt and evolve to the new mantra “Pain, No Gain!”, meaning that if you are finding any exercise or exercise level ‘hard’, it is definitely not good for you, especially if you are recovering from COVID-19!

If you have any medical problem with your heart from before, or had any effect on your heart while you were sick with COVID-19, it is essential that you consult an allopathic medical professional to ascertain your fitness to resume physical exertion.

Please get active!

Note to Self: this is different from exerting! Whatever your medical condition, you will benefit from making a beginning, with baby steps at first, to move around. Begin first by getting around your house, indoors, and then move outdoors. Exertion can be a later step.

You can begin with deep breathing exercises, do these at home, while seated comfortably, do these daily. Applicable for everyone, irrespective of whether you have had COVID-19 or not.

Source: Tata Trusts

Now is the time to contemplate taking up some form of exercise in a graded manner after you recover from COVID-19. Listen to your body carefully. Don’t push yourself!

Modern times, pandemic times, as people constantly in search of quick fixes, for everything in our life, we would be searching online for what we can do to get back into ‘shape’ (whatever that may mean to you personally!) . Hence this next section is just what the doctor prescribed!

Your health is in your hands (or your legs), but every journey in your life, begins with making up your mind first! You are the one who has to undertake all required actions to keep yourself healthy and well.

So, why waste further time. Just do it!

Exercise is beneficial not just for promoting recovery from COVID-19, but also serves to safeguard you from many lifestyle and other diseases.

The right time to start is now.

Source: Tata Trusts

Exercise is good for you. Begin any exercise with the intent of sustaining a healthy lifestyle through old age too.

Just begin whatever it is you choose to do, today. Listen to your body , while at it!

Please do share the above info sheets with your family, friends and colleagues. And do suitably translate and convey verbally to those around you who will benefit from it.

You can very easily sign up to these infrequent posts to get up to date, authentic information, from a Public Health Physician, who cares ! Sign up by scrolling down to enter your e-mail ID.


Stressful times these!

After having lived through these pandemic times since early 2020, by now, irrespective of where we are in our lives, or where we are in India or in the world, we would have begun to appreciate that health is the only true wealth we can possess. 

We would now be acutely aware of the importance that Wellness has for our Wellbeing.  However, the human mind is rather fickle and we will just as easily forget the hard learnt lessons of today. 

Wellness and Wellbeing are in your hands!

Source: Tata Trusts

 Stress is an inescapable part of our lives today, with the unfolding pandemic keeping us on tenterhooks. In normal times, a modicum of stress would always be welcome, to keep the excitement level up. However in these challenging times, we worry every day, for ourselves, for our loved ones and some may even worry for humankind in general.

Periodically, we need to take a deep breath and look within, to find strength, for ourselves and others. Having a daily routine helps, it gives a structure to our day, it may even give us a semblance of the feeling that we can at least control some part of our existence.

We must all try to find our own ways to strike a balance, however impossible that may seem. We can start with simple steps, such as writing down a routine, for us to broadly follow, the best that we can. 

A daily routine helps in dealing with the stress of life in these challenging times.  

Source : Tata Trusts

In these stressful times, we may have also begun to appreciate that peace of mind is invaluable.  We have to tap into our innate strength (yes, all of us have reserves of emotional and mental strength, which we may not be aware of) and get through each day, with a positive frame of mind. 

Think positive (attitude), Stay negative (Corona).

Use simple approaches such as the 5 Cs to work on yourself. You have the ability, believe in yourself. 

Source : Tata Trusts

The ongoing pandemic is undoubtedly one of the most challenging events of our lives, and its prolongation is only compounding the difficulty of coping.

We need to recognize and acknowledge that all of us handle stress differently. We need to learn to handle the situation within the context of our personal and work life. Work-Life Balance seems to be a very simplistic term, however it is most crucial for us to strike a balance that works for us as individuals.

More than anything, this pandemic has taught us that we need each other more than anything else in the world. We need to reach out more, to our loved ones, to our friends, to our relatives, to our colleagues. Reach out often, simply through a personal message (and not a forward) or a phone call. Just do it!

Source: Tata Trusts

Please do share the attached info sheets with your family, friends and colleagues. And do suitably translate and convey verbally to those around you who will benefit from it.  

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Key Messages for these Pandemic Times

Most of us are fully conversant with COVID Appropriate Behaviour by now, and are aware of what all is being done and has been done by the Government and other agencies to control the pandemic, with varying degrees of success.

Just to remind you, COVID Appropriate Behaviour, i.e simply correctly wearing a well fitting mask consistently, washing our hands periodically, not touching our face (mouth ,nose, eyes) often, keeping physical distance from others, avoiding close contact, crowds, and crowded places, works well for adults, and for children too

However, what can help to more effectively control the pandemic and mitigate its impact, is, if all of us periodically disseminate suitable and consistent messages within our circles of influence, and motivate our families, friends and relatives to do so similarly.

Source: Tata Trusts

The first Five Key Messages , are important to be disseminated to those in our lives with whom we interact with regularly, including our domestic assistants, our building security personnel, the housekeeping staff, vendors and shopkeepers. These five key messages, if adopted uniformly by society at large, will possibly be decisive in halting ✋the coronavirus pandemic.

The next Two Key Messages, are about stigma and discrimination, which we need to focus on as the days unfold into weeks and months of the ongoing pandemic.

First, there was stigma and discrimination about cases, amongst those infected and those not infected, now there will be the same divisive issue about the vaccinated and those not vaccinated.

We can be victorious ✌ only when we overcome these petty barriers that stigma and discrimination pose for us as a society.

We all will be safe, when everyone is safe! That’s the catch with any measure that is to be instituted / implemented for pandemic control.

The most important one is saved for the last!

The one Key Message to hopefully vanquish the Coronavirus is the latest weapon we have, ‘the vaccine‘!

Don’t Hesitate, Vaccinate.

We need to strive to get everyone vaccinated.

In everyone’s safety, lies our own safety.

Use every opportunity you get, to spread the 5 + 2 + 1 Key Messages to all those you know.

Not just once, but again and again.

Please do share the attached info sheet with your family, friends and colleagues. And do suitably translate and convey verbally to those around you who will benefit from it.

Your family, your friends, your colleagues, we all need YOU, yes, 👉you ! to take action, Today!

Please connect with me if you would like to organize an orientation or training session on dissemination of these Key Messages , for your teams / organization.

Each one can reach many!💪

The Third Wave? Will it affect our children?

In June 2021, daily, we are inundated with dire predictions about a ‘third wave’. Social media is in a frenzy commenting on the threat to children, parents across India are rightly perturbed. Is this all hype and hoopla?

The honest truth is that no one, not the armchair epidemiologists, not the mathematical modellers, not the ‘big doctors’ from premier national institutes, not the savvy media pundit – No one can predict with any level of certainty, whether we will experience a third, fourth or fifth wave. Going by the experience of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, it is reasonably certain that we will definitely experience waves of unknown magnitudes, over the coming months, before life comes back to as close as we can remember it to be normal.

Source: SCTIMST , Kerala

Now, what about the news snippets of the likelihood of our children being affected more in upcoming waves?

Well, children have been affected in the first and second waves too, and paediatricians have found that symptomatic infections are far fewer in children as compared with adults. And that the disease is also less severe. Undoubtedly, there have been cases of severe disease amongst children, however not at such an alarming rate to cause apprehension.

The Indian Academy of Paediatrics came out with a guidance statement on 22nd May 2021, which they have assured will be updated as and when new information comes to light. This statement is reassuring from the point of view that the apex professional body of paediatricians in India, has given evidence based statements in an easy to interpret format even for the non-medical individual.

Children benefit from the protection of their parents no doubt, however children still need to be guided suitably in fully adhering to COVID Appropriate Behaviour as applicable for adults, i.e. Masks, Hand Hygiene, Physical Distancing.

As a parent, if you are anxious about “MIS-C”, don’t worry, a future infosheet will address this suitably, next week.

COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) as applicable for adults is equally appropriate for children. With no vaccine available as yet for children, CAB is what will keep them safe.

Source : Tata Trusts

Please do share the attached info sheet with your family, friends and colleagues. And do suitably translate and convey verbally to those around you who will benefit from it.

In case you need any additional info on any topic or theme, please connect with me directly.

Corporate Sector Vaccination ! The hidden paradigm.

As corporate India gears up to engage in an employee oriented welfare scheme to vaccinate them and theirs, the query that may crop up most often may be that “Will the Govt facilitate the process or will the local bureaucracy impose meaningless restrictions?” Such as “Cannot vaccinate in-laws“, “Cannot vaccinate partner if not married“, “Need to obtain permission in triplicate from local authority to reschedule appointment” etc (Disclaimer : I am just stating these in a lighter vein)

Finances would not be an issue at all, as for this important task at hand, budgetary allocations within the corporate budget would already have been made, and the private healthcare system is already geared up to ably match the requirements, with their ‘pay for jab’ model. Commercial supply chain logistics mechanisms may bring in efficiency, if the Govt plays ball, and permits Vaccine Manufacturers to deliver on commitments. Only time can tell how this plays out.

However, this post is about the other hidden paradigm i.e dealing with issues surrounding vaccination, which essentially is a voluntary activity, requiring the active endorsement and participation of the rank and file of a company. The corporate sector does not exist in isolation, their employees are a part of the same society as every citizen of the country.

Corporate leadership and HR professionals will appreciate in due course, once the initial heady, feel good factor of getting and giving jabs is done and over with, that there is definite scope for focused campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy, vaccine anxiety and even vaccine envy, while also needing to decide on an organizational approach to ‘Anti vaxxers’. Think ahead! Six months down the line, would you want 10% of the workforce on the shop floor or in the office building, unvaccinated ? Keep in mind that vaccination remains a voluntary action.

This situation provides an opportunity for philanthropic agencies and foundations, who can become visionary “agents of change” to collaborate with suitable academic partners, and assist the corporate sector in customizing Social and Behaviour Change Communication campaigns focused on these vexatious vaccination related issues.

Or alternatively, such campaigns can be taken on by Advertising agencies, with professional expert advice, over the next few months, either commercially or as a part of their own Social Responsibility.

The time to act is now. Vaccination saves lives! Since the past 100 years, vaccination has proved itself to be one of the most effective direct weapons in Primary Prevention. Don’t Hesitate, Vaccinate!

If you are interested in knowing more about a structured and focused corporate campaign to address these issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Visualizing the Pandemic Wave (s)

Source :

The above picture refers to an Op Ed by a senior colleague , who is an eminent epidemiologist, and well known in academia. It is a very well conveyed perspective on the ‘Pandemic of Panic’ being reported everywhere ( I recommend a click on the link given below the above image to read through the write up).

We are constantly being bombarded with saddening images of public distress across India and accusatory media personages indulging in the blame game. If you would cast your memory back to the early days of the pandemic, ,you would remember that the coverage of the pandemic in Italy and in the USA was similar. Now it seems that the world media is fascinated with the Indian story, till something new comes along. In the modern times, everyone of us knows (or should know) that what we see on social media and the mass media is not what is and that what is , is not what we come to know of. Simply put, we have a large population, and we do not have adequate resources to match the requirements. This can only be addressed by advance planning and preparation over many years if not decades. However, it is never too late!

However, not to distract from the theme of today’s post! The one term that even a toddler in these times knows all about is – “The Pandemic Curve”. What with everyone wanting to flatten it, one can almost conjure up the image of homicidal burly people chasing some ephemeral curvaceous thing to flatten the life out of it.

This is how the chart showing cases in India and the USA looks like. if you see absolute number of cases only! Please note how it appears that India is having more of a problem that the other country with which it is being compared with. Our media prefers this format as it is more sensational. Please see the next chart which shows the same data as “Cases per million population” to see the difference the same data brings about when presented as per convenience of the presenter.

Source: Our World in Data website -Accessed 02 May 2021

The above two lines are for the USA and India respectively, and while you take a deep breath (yes, breathing deep is good for you at all times!), let me clarify that this data is representative of “Cases per million population” as on 01 May 2021. This is the preferred way to have a look at data, the way that scientists and epidemiologists do, (i.e to have a denominator, to lend perspective and ensure comparability between countries or regions). In the above case, population in millions is the denominator.

Source : Our World in Data website, with the labels added on for the viewer’s understanding

This image is for you to understand what these “waves” are all about…. You can straight off identify the ‘waves’ in USA…. and then look at the Indian wave(s) identifiable by the arrows. The data is “Incidence” i.e the number of new cases per day. You can see the shape form that the lines are conveying…. they look like waves dont they ? This is the ‘Epidemic Curve‘ , which is very happily referred to by everyone, when they talk about ‘flattening the curve’.

In the Public Health domain, those of us who are professionals and not WhatsApp experts or astro- forecasters, usually we cannot know whether we have crested the wave till after we have crossed it. To inform you, this kind of data is best looked at retrospectively. Data modellers who have proliferated during this pandemic, are amateur graphic artists who love to draw projections which progress beyond the curve…Their guesstimates are as good as a kindergarten kid with a crayon.

Now who can comment whether the curve will rise or fall at this point of time? That is conjecture and based on a lot of assumptions, most of which hindsight proves to be fallacious. Every wave has to have a crest. The crucial question is when will it be reached ? …

Data is only as good as what it can convey. Pragmatically, for an individual who loses a loved one, data doesnt make a difference. A loss is a loss, and requires our empathy. Lives in India are as important as Lives in the western world. This is what we must focus on going ahead.

Someone somewhere said this sometime “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” In this modern infodemic , everyone has an opinion. Mine is that we should be circumspect when we look at the data presented by Mass Media and circulated on Social Media. Rely only on authentic, verified information from credible sources. Peruse the interpretation of scientists and epidemiologists and then only form your own world view.

Vaccine Tales- Let there be spaces in your togetherness- Increase the Gap between doses

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… 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.

Please do post any comments you would like addressed. You can subscribe to this blog by simply entering your email address somewhere towards the end of this page, and click on submit! You can also share this post with anyone and everyone! Information from a verified and credible source is always good to have in this infodemic , right ?

Stay safe.

Vaccine Tales Part 4: I had COVID already! Do I need this vaccine now?

“Doctor, why should I get the vaccine, when I have already come out of a COVID infection (unscathed)?”

” I believe that natural immunity acquired through having been infected, is better than vaccine derived immunity….”

Well, again, on the lighter side of things, social media has educated a lot of people and given their opinions a stage! If only life and science were so simple !

Like a stuck record, I must repeat “We dont know enough about this ‘novel’ Coronavirus as yet, We dont know how it affects us in the medium to long term…..!” Do keep in mind that this virus has been causing havoc for just about a year now and it truly does take many years for indepth scientific information to be collated, analysed and assimilated into the knowledge ecosystem. As of now we are learning on the fly….. So, possibly , you and I know as much as the real ‘experts’ out there.

As on 18 Mar 2021, it is recommended that all people should be vaccinated regardless of whether they have already had COVID-19 in the past.

We do not know as yet, for how long we are protected from getting sick again (i.e repeat infection) after recovering from COVID-19. There have been numerous reports from across the world of repeat infections. Hence, it is important to be aware that even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible that you can be infected again by the coronavirus, either the original coronavirus strain or even the new mutant strains which are emerging. While you may have some / partial immunity to the original coronavirus, you definitely may not have any immunity against the new mutant strains. Immunity development is a very complex process and we can at best guess our individual responses, as the human body is unique to each of us!

By now everyone of us is aware that getting COVID19 is like gambling with a loaded gun….. You do not know with certainty whether you will get seriously sick or not if you are infected! Vaccination provides you immunity without you falling sick the way you would, if you were actually infected with the coronavirus. Hence if I were to choose with getting some immunity, I would prefer the vaccine route as compared to getting infected with the coronavirus and getting sick with COVID19. You can read the CDC recommendation here.

Vaccination should be deferred for four to eight weeks after recovery from a COVID infection. Do not be in a rush, however do get vaccinated in due course of time, to harvest the benefit of the protection of vaccine derived immunity.
Another question that will keep pestering us : “Does vaccination with currently available vaccines, protect me against the newer strains / mutated virus of this Coronavirus?”
Again, no simple straight forward answer for this one too. Yes, at the current state of evidence, there is a likelihood of the currently available vaccines, providing protection against the newer strains / mutated virus variants. However, do keep in mind, that the vaccines are presently understood to be protecting us against getting severe illness or falling seriously sick even if we get infected. In all probability they will not prevent the virus (old, new, variant etc) from entering the body, i.e we can still get infected and spread the virus to others (hence the need to continue COVID Appropriate Behaviour even after vaccination).

In case you are taking any medications (and not just blood thinners), it is advisable to consult your doctor on telephone , prior to going to a vaccination centre. There are far too many medications and combinations thereof, to address through a generic post like this. Do not rely on social media, instead count on direct communication with your doctor, before you go for vaccination.

Please share this post with your family and friends. You can also simply sign up to follow this blog of mine and be updated as and when new posts are released , by scrolling further down.

At present (18 Mar 2021), I will recommend that you should take whatever vaccine you can get in India (i.e Covishield or Covaxin ). Millions have already been vaccinated with these two vaccines. Safe to say that it is safe , as of now. I am not commenting about the current social media scaremongering about the Astra Zeneca (Covishield) vaccine and its supposed linkage with clots. As and when the data is sifted more thoroughly, the ‘truth’ will come to light. Will be reading up on the evidence as it comes through and will distill the same for you to read subsequently.

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.

Vaccine Tales – Part 2 of many : Fear of Missing Out and “To Vaccinate or not To Be…”

India, era of the pandemic, 2020. Despondence, desperation, rumours and hearsay. “What do we do to safeguard ourselves from COVID 19?” “Will there ever be a vaccine?” “Will we ever be safe from this virus?”

India, pre 01 March 2021. Intense anticipation and speculation, heated discussions, sweeping opinions… “Will the vaccine(s) against COVID 19 be effective? Let us refer to this study or that study, let us see what happens in UK!” “Can we afford to take the vaccine?” “I am safe, I need not take the vaccine”….”Doctor, which Vaccine should I take?”

India, post 01 Mar 2021. Frantic rush to vaccination centres, First Day First Show mindset (this refers to those people who simply love to watch a new Bollywood movie on its first screening, to get bragging rights!) , Irritation and frustration at technical glitches in COWIN system, Anger at being deprived of the opportunity to flaunt wealth to get priority or VIP vaccination ! “The COWIN registration is not happening!” “There are no appointment slots available for me!” “I am safe, I need not take the vaccine”….”Doctor, which Vaccine should I take?” “Why cant I get it now, I deserve to get it and I can afford it” “Will I get side effects?” “When can I get my next dose”

Well, we know all of the answers to all of the above rhetorical questions, as the ubiquitous Whatsapp and other tools of social media, have made these a part of our lives over the past couple of months. But do we have the correct answers?

I am a Public Health Specialist, let me not aver that I am an ‘expert’, let me just reassure you that I do not formulate my opinions, views and recommendations, based on an education through the University of Whatsapp. I do due diligence, and undertake a daily reading of the available and evolving literature on websites for professionals, and follow guidances issued periodically by the WHO, the Govt of India and CDC, USA, and then only formulate the aforementioned views and recommendations.

Should I take the COVID Vaccine at all ? I lead a ‘safe’ lifestyle and am careful! A no brainer this one. Just take the vaccine , whenever you get the opportunity to. Do not fight to be at the front of the line, there is enough vaccine under production to be available to all of the world (eventually). The vaccine will provide you “some” protection, do not bother yourself with percentages of effectiveness / efficacy, or waste effort to assiduously study the medical literature for clinical trial reports. Let people like me interpret these for you. Would you want the pilot of your plane to receive inputs on flight conditions from your local kirana (provisions) store chap ?

Based on current evidence , there is a strong likelihood that you will not get seriously sick if you are vaccinated and contract the COVID infection. Which means that you can still contract the infection, even if you are vaccinated. Hence the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the potential risks of the vaccine.

Avoiding Crowds, Crowded places and Close Contact, combined with ensuring adequate ventilation of places and spaces that you frequent are at present the only ways to keep yourself safe. Wear a mask , and frequently use sanitizer or simply wash your hands with soap and water, and you will be safer!

Wear a mask correctly! And insist on others similarly!

Which Vaccine should I take? Any vaccine that is made available to you! Thats the vaccine that you should take! In India presently, there is no choice that is available to the recipient between Covishield (Serum Institute) or Covaxin (Bharat Biotech). In the days to come, it is possible that there may be a larger number of vaccines available commercially, and then the matter of choice will arise. By then, there will be more scientific studies available, and more evidence will have been generated. As of now, as long as its a vaccine against COVID19, and has received regulatory approval, take whatever vaccine you can get. And for the second dose, make sure that you take the same vaccine.

Will I be “free” to mingle and be unmasked for who I am, after I get vaccinated? Well, there is no simple answer to this one. Till the entire world is ‘safe’, you can never be truly ‘safe’. Wisdom lies in exercising caution and moderating your exposure to potential infection.

Would you willingly step into a pit which has poisonous snakes ? Would you venture forth bravely into a crowded room not knowing whether the others are well or ill or vaccinated or not? Does a person being an asymptomatic carrier have any visible signs , which you can recognise easily?

President Biden in the USA has recently announced to his people that they can anticipate being ‘free’ to mingle by the 04th of July, subject to many ifs and buts, with a full coverage with vaccine of the entire population at risk, being the most crucial. Would you like to take a chance with mingling maskless and in close proximity, breathing the same air as potentially infected individuals….. Remember, the vaccine does not safeguard you from getting infected with the coronavirus! It merely reduces the likelihood of a serious illness. You and others who are vaccinated can still get infected and transmit coronavirus to others!!

As a rough guide a recent release from the CDC USA gives us some insights to make an informed decision on our life ahead in the immediate future, after getting vaccinated .. Interpret this diagram with caution please.

My summary recommendation for a post vaccine life (for the first few weeks at least, till our experts are able to study the situation and issue updated guidances) remain the same….. Whether you are vaccinated or not , continue avoiding Crowds, Crowded places and Close Contact, combined with insisting on and ensuring adequate ventilation of places and spaces that you frequent. Consistently wear a mask and insist on others covering their nose and mouth when around you, frequently use sanitizer or simply wash your hands with soap and water, and you will be safer!

In subsequent parts of this ongoing narration, I will address other queries and concerns. Please share this post with your friends and relatives and enable them to get information that is up to date and relevant.

In case you have any specific queries or concerns which you feel will benefit the larger population to be informed about, please post in the Comments section below and I will address in subsequent posts.

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