In 2021, the world is entering into the post-Covid era, slowly but surely. This is being supported by massive vaccination drives across countries. This is especially true in India which has managed to give the first jab to a significant portion of its large population.
When the initial phase of India’s vaccine drive began, the vaccine slots were limited to people in the older demographics. But once that phase was completed, vaccination was open to everyone over 18 years of age. This includes 73.84% of the nation's total population, so now the majority of people are eligible to get their first shot. But not everyone can get the vaccine with no limitations.
If you have had Covid-19 recently, or you’re pregnant or you have a medical condition that leaves you immunocompromised, you may have doubts whether the vaccine is safe for you. Let’s take a look at the safety and efficacy for people who may need to avoid vaccination for Covid-19:
Pregnant or Lactating Women
In the case of pregnant and lactating women, there has been some doubt on whether they should wait before getting vaccinated. However, most doctors and the MoHFW have agreed that in most cases the benefits of being vaccinated while pregnant outweigh the risks. Initially, there was no consensus since the vaccines used in India were never tested on pregnant or lactating women during trials. However, with mounting evidence from the current vaccination drive, the MoHFW has said it can be done as long as women are informed of the potential risks before getting the shot. The same holds true for lactating women. Both these demographics may experience some reaction to the vaccination but it is considered safer than contracting Covid-19 itself.
Summary- If you have any doubts, speak with your obstetrician or doctor first, but understand that for most pregnant women it is better to get vaccinated.
People who have recovered Covid-19 or who have recently been diagnosed
In both cases, these people are free to take the vaccine but there is a waiting period for both. Depending on the date you first noticed symptoms or the date you got a confirmed positive test result, most people will be required to wait up to 3 months before getting vaccinated. For those who have received monoclonal or antibody treatment in the hospital, while they had Covid-19, the wait is also the same (90 days). It is safe to get vaccinated if you already have had Covid-19 and it is also necessary. It is not understood how well your body can protect you from reinfection after recovery, and there are several variants of the virus to contend with. Speak with a doctor and tell them the date you first had symptoms or the date you got your positive test results, they will be able to help you schedule your first dose of the vaccine. If you took your first shot and got Covid-19 after that, you will need to defer your second shot to 3 months later.
Summary- Most people who recovered from Covid-19 need to get vaccinated too.
Children under 18
While in the USA, certain vaccines have been tested or approved for use with children 12 years and older, in India currently no such approval exists. As of now, only those who are over 18 years can be vaccinated simply because none of the vaccines were designed or tested with children in mind. Further trials and testing may be ongoing with several vaccines currently being used in India. Currently, it is thought that the Covaxin vaccine, the Zydus Cadila vaccine and an mRNA vaccine from Gennova may be in line to get approved for children. No official rules or guidelines from the government exist at this time, this could change as more research and tests are conducted.
Summary- Currently in India, children under 18 years cannot get vaccinated for Covid-19 yet, this may soon change.
People with previous reactions to vaccines, people with allergic reactions
People who have had negative or severe reactions to vaccinations in the past may need to speak with their doctor before getting the Covid-19 vaccine. People who have allergic reactions to any substance used in the vaccine need to avoid getting vaccinated, however, this particular case is very rare.
Summary- If you are at risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine, you may be asked to avoid getting vaccinated, but check with your doctor first.
This section refers only to people with low platelet counts (due to disease or other factors), people on medications that reduce immunity, people with autoimmune diseases and people who are taking monoclonal antibodies to treat their medical conditions. People within this category can still take the vaccine, they only need to speak with their doctor to arrange the best timing for getting their shot. Your doctor may prescribe certain blood tests to monitor your health and immunity before and after getting vaccinated. You may also be asked to wait till your medical team thinks your body is able to handle the vaccination. Very old people with medical issues may also need to defer their vaccination or avoid it completely, but only if the doctor advises it. Some older people may not be able to take the strain of getting vaccinated, but this fitness check is best left to medical professionals.
Summary- People with weak or compromised immunity need to only take the vaccine under careful consideration from their doctor.
Most people can take the vaccine
For most people over 18, the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh any potential risks. It is very rare for vaccination to be riskier than avoiding vaccination. In the few instances where people cannot be vaccinated, it's usually temporary. Yes, even those with diabetes, cancer, asthma and other chronic conditions can safely be vaccinated (with consultation from your doctor beforehand!). If you know anyone who meets the rare criteria for avoiding the vaccine, share this list with them. Otherwise, most people need to get vaccinated - for their own safety and the safety of everyone around them.