- Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy can take the COVID-19 vaccine
- COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people on blood thinners especially Aspirin
- People on insulin can also take the COVID-19 vaccine jab
New Delhi: India’s COVID-19 vaccination drive that began on January 16 with healthcare and frontline workers has now been expanded to senior citizens (over 60 years of age) and those above 45 years of age with comorbidities. With the emergency license given to two COVID-19 vaccines – Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield manufactured by Serum Institute of India; Bharat Biotech-ICMR’s Covaxin – India has vaccinated over 2.56 crore citizens as of March 11 (8 AM) and plans to cover 30 crore people by August. As the vaccination drive continues to grow, NDTV speaks to experts to get answers to key questions related to pre-existing conditions and COVID-19 vaccination.
To begin with, Dr Suneela Garg, Member, Lancet India COVID Panel and advisor to ICMR clarified that as of now, no severe adverse event following immunisation like a person collapsing or vaccination resulting in the severe neurological disorder has been reported. She said,
After taking the vaccine, one may get pain at the site of the vaccine, some kind of itching, little bit of fever and shivering. But these are minor and common side-effects which will subside within 24 hours.
A panel of experts including Dr Suneela Garg, Dr Jalil Parkar, Senior Pulmonary Consultant, Lilawati Hospital and Dr Ripen Gupta, Director and Unit Head Cardiologist, Max Smart Hospital, Delhi, answered all frequently asked questions related to comorbidities, medication and COVID-19 vaccination.
NDTV: Is the vaccine safe for those who are above 90 years of age?
Dr Suneela Garg: As of now, both the vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin – are safe for people above 90 years of age also. I have witnessed some of the people who are 102-year-old and 90-year-old, taking the vaccine and it is fairly safe. I feel that it is important for people suffering from any of the comorbidities to consult their doctor before they come to the vaccination point.
NDTV: Should cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Dr Ripen Gupta: Most of the patients who are on aspirin or even dual antiplatelets can be given COVID vaccination. Only patients who are on very strong blood thinners like Acitrom or Warfarin are not eligible for COVID vaccination. Patients with comorbidities like cancer, on chemotherapy or patients of heart disease, on blood pressure medicine or heart medicine are at more risk of COVID-19 infection so they should be offered the vaccination first and they should go for the vaccination.
NDTV: Can patients on blood thinners get the vaccine? What are the medications that you say need to stop temporarily if one wants to get vaccinated?
Dr Ripen Gupta: Most of the patients who are taking blood thinners are on Aspirin which is totally safe. If a patient is on aspirin, he can be taken for vaccination and need not stop aspirin tablet. This covers around 80 per cent of the patients who are taking blood thinners. Then some of the patients who had a recent angioplasty or bypass done, are on co-blood thinners; the second blood thinner could be Clopidogrel or Ticagrelor. Even on these blood thinners, a patient can go for vaccination. Some patients have heart valve surgery or arrhythmia then the blood thinners they are on can result in bleeding if vaccination is given. In this subset of patients, we say that they may stop blood thinners for one or two days after consulting their cardiologist or a doctor who has prescribed this and then go for vaccination and restart the medication after that.
NDTV: What about patients who have recently undergone surgery? How long after surgery should you get the COVID-19 vaccine? What should be that gap?
Dr Suneela Garg: Let’s say today you have a bypass surgery; you have to see that you recover from that and you are in an ambulatory (walking) stage, you are mobilised and I will say, six weeks after surgery. Meanwhile, follow SMS – sanitisation, mask and social distancing – very strictly so that you are taking precautions after the surgery as well. With this, you are not only protecting yourself from COVID-19, you are protecting yourself from other illnesses as well. It is always better to wait for some time and in the meantime, follow precautions.
NDTV: Is the vaccine safe for heart patients with pacemakers?
Dr Ripen Gupta: I think pacemaker is not an issue at all. In fact, vaccination is safe for all cardiac patients – whether they have a stunt put in, a bypass done, whether they have a pacemaker, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), or combo device or anything, it is safe. As I told you, certain blood thinners need to be stopped. If the patient is in doubt about medication, he/she should consult his/her cardiologist and go for the vaccination. All cardiac conditions are totally safe.
NDTV: Is the vaccine safe for patients taking insulin injections?
Dr Suneela Garg: Primarily, all these patients, as a matter of rule, must go for COVID-19 vaccination. I believe that when they are on insulin, their diabetes is controlled, but even if it is not controlled, they must take the vaccination because diabetes makes us vulnerable to multiple infections including COVID-19. We need to have this message very clear that persons with diabetes must go for vaccination.
NDTV: What about asthma patients who are using inhalers and have very severe asthma. Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for them? Can they continue to use their inhalers as they get vaccinated?
Dr Jalil Parakh: Yes, they can continue to use their inhalers if they get vaccinated. Many of my asthmatic patients have already taken the vaccine and they didn’t have any issues. But there is one observation that we have marked; many of our doctors and nurses who have had COVID-19 including myself, when we took the COVID-19 vaccine, the symptoms were a little more than the ones faces by non-COVID patients even though they had comorbidities. I think the body was fighting against the vaccine but there was nothing that drastic that one should be worried about.
NDTV: Is vaccine recommended for patients with a history of food, pollen allergy, and throat swelling?
Dr Jalil Parakh: If one has experienced severe anaphylactic shock with a vaccine for influenza or any other then it is a different issue otherwise, it is safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
NDTV: Should patients who have had severe COVID get vaccinated and after how long?
Dr Suneela Garg: The moment they have completely recovered from COVID-19, it takes four to six weeks to come to normal, after that they can take the vaccine and they should take both the shots of the vaccine.
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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.