COVID vaccination voluntary, 2 doses recommended: Govt

The ministry stated that it was advisable to receive a complete schedule of the anti-coronavirus vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19 as this will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease

covid vaccine
Representative photo: iStock

The Union Health Ministry has said getting vaccinated against COVID-19 will be voluntary. It, however, said that the vaccine introduced in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed by other countries.

The ministry listed a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on COVID-19 vaccine, on Thursday (December 17), and responded to questions such as whether taking a vaccine was mandatory, how long does it take for the antibodies to develop and if it was necessary for a COVID-19 recovered person to take the vaccine.

The ministry stated that it was advisable to receive a complete schedule of the anti-coronavirus vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19 as this will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease.

It also said that protective level of antibodies generally develop two weeks after receiving the second dose.

“Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary. However, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of the vaccine for protecting one-self against this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to the close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers,” the ministry said in response to a question on if it is mandatory to take the shot.

The ministry said that vaccine trials are under different stages of finalisation. The government is set to launch a vaccine for COVID-19 soon, it said.

Also read: Clinical trial: 17 volunteers given Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in Pune

At least six vaccines are undergoing clinical trials in India: one developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR; another by Oxford University, the trial of which is being conducted by Serum Institute of India; Sputnik V vaccine, which is being manufactured by Dr Reddy’s Lab, Hyderabad, in collaboration with Russia’s Gamaleya National Centre; besides the ones being developed by Zydus Cadila, Gennova, and Biological E Ltd, Hyderabad, in collaboration with MIT.

On whether the vaccine will be safe as it is being tested and introduced in a short span of time, and the possible side-effects, the ministry said vaccines will be introduced in the country only after the regulatory bodies clear it based on its safety and efficacy. “COVID-19 vaccine will be introduced only when the safety is proven. As is true for other vaccines, the common side effects in some individuals could be mild fever, pain, etc, at the site of injection,” the ministry said.

It said states have been asked to start making arrangements to deal with any vaccine-related side-effects as one of the measures towards safe vaccine delivery.

Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule, it stated.

The ministry said anyone taking medicines for illnesses like cancer, diabetes, hypertension etc, can take the COVID-19 vaccine as persons with one or more of these comorbid conditions are considered high-risk category and they need to get vaccinated.

In response to a question on whether the vaccine will be given to everyone simultaneously, the ministry said that based on the potential availability of vaccines, the government has selected priority groups who are at higher risk to be vaccinated.

In the initial phase, the COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to the priority group — health care and front-line workers. The 50-plus age group may also begin early based on vaccine availability.

The eligible beneficiaries will be informed through their registered mobile number regarding the health facility where the vaccination will be provided and the scheduled time. This will be done to avoid any inconvenience in registration and vaccination of beneficiaries, the ministry said in the FAQs.

Also read: India may issue emergency use licence for COVID vaccines in 4 weeks

The ministry said registration of a beneficiary is mandatory for vaccination. Only after registration will the information on the session site to visit and time will be shared.

Following online registration, a beneficiary will receive SMS on their registered mobile number with details of the date, place and time of vaccination.

Photo IDs such as driving licence, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) job card, PAN card, passbooks issued by banks/post office, passport pension document, service identity card issued to employees by central/state governments/ public limited companies and voter ID may be produced at the time of registration.

On getting the due dose of vaccine, the beneficiary will receive SMS on their registered mobile number. After all doses of vaccine are administered, a QR code-based certificate will also be sent to the registered mobile number of the beneficiary, the ministry said.

On preventive measures and precautions, the ministry said, “We request you to rest at the vaccination centre for at least half an hour after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Inform the nearest health authorities/ANM/ASHA in case you feel any discomfort or uneasiness subsequently. Remember to continue following key COVID Appropriate Behaviours like wearing of mask, maintaining hand sanitization and physical distance,” it added.