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COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs Answered By WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan

If you have had COVID-19, should you still get vaccinated ? Why are we not vaccinating children under 16? WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan explains these and other vaccine related questions

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs Answered BY WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan

New Delhi: As countries start vaccinating people against covid-19, there are still many queries and doubts that need clarification and constant updates. Rollout of vaccine in record time means that vaccination drive coincides with parallel research and trials, and so more and more information will keep emerging even as people get vaccinated.

As adults, frontline workers or people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 get immunized, a common query is when will children get a vaccine against coronavirus?

Though Vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna have enrolled children 12 and older in clinical trials of their vaccines, but the final vaccine to come out in the market for use will take some time. Many other vaccines developers like Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and AstraZeneca are yet to start their trials for children.

Also Read: Why Did South Africa Stop AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout, An Expert Explains

World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan explains why there are no vaccines for children. She said,

So, whenever the vaccines or drugs are developed they go through these clinical trials and testing in people with the disease in order to make sure they are safe and effective. This process usually starts with adults because incase there is some sorts of side-effects, which we don’t know about then we don’t want children to be the first ones to get exposed.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Explainer: How Do Vaccines Work?

Explaining why vaccines are tested initially on people over the age of 18-years, Dr Swaminathan added,

All the vaccines that are being developed are being tested on people over the age of 18-years or in some cases 16-years. That’s the population for which we have data and that’s the age-group for which vaccines are authorised for use because COVID-19 is much more serious or the deadly disease in older people, so all the developers have ensured that these more prone to the disease group – elderly and people with comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes and heart disease get the vaccine on priority.

Also Read: COVID-19 Explained: Will The COVID-19 Vaccine Be Effective Against The Latest Coronavirus Variant?

Indicating that vaccines for children will take some time, Dr Swaminathan said,

For now, we know, vaccines are safe for people above the age of 18, the studies in children will be started soon and in the next coming months we will get some data. Also, supplies are limited globally for the vaccines and currently, the vaccines are targeted at those who are at risk, so by the time we get data on the children, there will be more vaccines to go around with.

Answering another common question with respect to COVID19 vaccine on if a person who has already had COVID-19 should get vaccinated? Dr Soumya Swaminathan said,

We know that those people who had COVID-19 do develop an immune response against the disease. But there is a sub-group of people, those who have had very mild infection or asymptomatic people, who we know have a less strong immune response compared to those who have developed a serious infection and developed good antibodies in response. So, in general, we are now recommending that people should get vaccinated if they fall in the priority group for which vaccination drives are taking place across the world, regardless of the fact that they had contracted the infection in the past or not.

Also Read: Coronavirus Vaccine Glossary: 15 Terms To Know About Vaccination

Dr Swaminathan also said that people should not worry for getting vaccinated as COVID-19 vaccine will act as immunity booster shot in them. She said,

The good thing is that the immune system recognises the same protein, so even if one had coronavirus in past and now if they get a vaccine, it acts like a booster and it boosts that immune response further – both the antibody response and the t-cell response, so one is much more assured that they have a good immune response that will last for a longer period of time.

Underlying the fact that the scientists and doctors are still not sure how long the vaccine immunity will last against COVID-19 virus, she further said,

Researchers are working on this question, for now, we don’t know that. But at this very point, we do recommend people getting vaccinated for the COVID-19, irrespective of the fact they had contracted the disease or not.

Also Read: Vaccine Explainer: How Does Immunisation Protect Against A Disease?

Dr Swaminathan also spoke about the common side-effects from the approved COVID-19 vaccines and when should one be really worried. She said,

Currently, what is happening is that when people go for their vaccinations, they are asked to wait for few minutes inside the clinic or injection site because the healthcare providers want to watch you for the vaccine. Very rarely one might develop an allergic reaction. One may also experience common symptoms like pain in arms or muscle, soreness, redness or swelling, low grade fever, body ache, headache or just not feeling too good in general. This is expected because that is our body’s natural immune system, it is gearing up to cope up with the foreign materials that have been injected and that usually lasts unto 2 or 3 days. If it is going beyond the first three days, if one develops anything unusual or if any of these symptoms are persistent or if there are some other symptoms that one doesn’t know then it will be worth going to the same place where one got injected.

Dr Swaminathan also said the globally data of these records is being tracked and progress of COVID-19 related vaccines is being monitored. She said,

The good news is that, worldwide 100 million vaccines have been deployed in the last two months and so far there are no big warnings or red flags. But we need to continue following the data and records for the same.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene



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