FAQ: Who Will and Who Won’t Get the COVID Vaccine First?

3 min read

As the January 16 rollout deadline fast approaches, the Union Health Ministry has sent all states and immunisation officers a comparative fact sheet for both vaccines: Covaxin and Covishield.

These two vaccines are going to be administered in the initial phases for vaccinating the priority group of 3 crore people.

The fact sheet offers information on minor adverse events, dosage, cold storage requirements and more. FIT explains.

General Vaccine Guidelines

  • The vaccination is only for people aged 18 and over
  • The vaccines are not interchangeable, which means that the second dose will be of the same vaccine that was administered as the first dose.
  • COVID vaccines and other vaccines should be separated by a period of 14 days
  • The vaccine should be given with “caution” to persons with a history of any bleeding or coagulation disorder.
  • Vaccinators need to store both vaccines at +2°C to +8°C. They should protect them from any light and discard them if found frozen.

Can Pregnant Women Take the Vaccines?

Since the clinical trials were not conducted on any pregnant or lactating women, the effects of the vaccine on them are unknown. So if you are pregnant or lactating, it is best to avoid the vaccine. The Health Ministry fact sheet says such women will not receive any vaccination at this time.


Who Won’t Get the Vaccine?

The vaccine will not be given to the following three groups:

  1. Pregnant or lactating women
  2. People who have any previous allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine if taken in another country where vaccination has begun
  3. People who show an immediate or delayed onset of an allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies, pharmaceutical products, and food items.

Who Won’t Get the Vaccine Temporarily?

The fact sheet adds that certain individuals in certain circumstances would face temporary contraindications. These are:

  1. People infected with COVID-19 or those showing active symptoms of the SARS-CoV-2 infection
  2. COVID-19 patients who have been given anti-SARS-Cov-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma
  3. Severely unwell or hospitalised patients of any illnesses

Who Will Get the Vaccine Regardless of Health Conditions?

  1. People who had COVID-19 in the past
  2. People with chronic diseases and comorbidities - in fact, these are people who are at risk of the infection and need the vaccine
  3. Immunocompromised people or people with HIV or immune suppression. It must be noted that the fact sheet mentions that the response to the COVID vaccines “may be less in these individuals”.

What Are the Potential Adverse Events of Covishield?

Common Adverse Events

  • Injection site tenderness; injection site pain; headache; fatigue; myalgia (deep muscle pain); malaise (a feeling of overall discomfort); pyrexia (an abnormal elevation of body temperature); chills; arthralgia (pain in the joint); and nausea.

The fact sheet suggests taking a paracetamol “to provide symptomatic relief from post-vaccination adverse reaction”.

Rare Adverse Events:

  • As per the fact-sheet, “very rare events of demyelinating disorders” have been reported following vaccination with Covishield, “without the causal relationship establishment.”

Covisheild should be given with “caution to people with thrombocytopenia.”

What Are the Potential Adverse Events of Covaxin?

Common Adverse Events:

  • Injection site pain; headache; fatigue; fever; body ache; abdominal pain; nausea and vomiting; dizziness-giddiness; tremor; sweating; cold; cough; and injection site swelling.

Rare Adverse Events:

  • Bharat Biotech has said that no serious adverse events have been reported in phase 1 or 2 trials, or in the on-going phase 3 trials.
  • However, they have said that chloroquine and corticosteroids, both used as repurposed drugs in Covid-19 clinical management, “may impair antibody response” likely to be triggered by the vaccine.

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