- So far, India has inoculated more than 9 lakh people
- In first five days, 600 adverse events have been reported
- Experts recommend those with allergies should avoid getting vaccinated
New Delhi: Since the beginning of India’s vaccination drive on January 16, the numbers of people who have been inoculated is increasing on a day-to-day basis. According to the data released by the Ministry of Family and Health Welfare (MoHFW) on Thursday (January 21), 9.99 lakh healthcare and frontline workers have received COVID-19 vaccine jabs in the country. The government is aiming to vaccinate 30 crore people in total in the first phase of the vaccination drive in the coming few months that includes healthcare and frontline workers along with people above 50-years of age and those with comorbidities.
As far as adverse event falling immunisation (AEFI) is concerned, according to the data by the central government, India has reported at least 600 adverse events in the first five days of the vaccination drive from across the country, which is being termed as one of the lowest in the world. So far, 10 people have been hospitalised in six states due to reported adverse event following COVID immunisation, of which seven have been discharged.
As we move ahead with the drive, NDTV speaks with the panel of experts to know about the AEFI and should people with allergies avoid the vaccination for the time being.
Talking about the adverse events data coming in after the vaccination drive India has started, if it is a cause of worry, Dr Sarman Singh, Director AIIMS, Bhopal said,
First thing we need to know about any kind of vaccines is the fact that every vaccine has some or the other adverse events associated with them. The major concern is serious side-effects of the vaccine or adverse reactions which sometimes may lead to death. However, that happens in very rare cases.
Further emphasising on the two approved COVID vaccines in India, Mr Singh added,
Till now we have not reported any serious adverse reactions related to these vaccines, but adverse events in milder form that is fever, palpitations, allergies have been reported. But that is common.
Sharing data on adverse events, Dr Anita Ramesh, Apollo Speciality Hospitals said,
At this point of time, India has vaccinated more than 9 lakh healthcare and frontline workers and that is a big number we are looking at. According to the data, we have around 688 adverse reactions that have been reported. But most of these are in the grade 1 and 2 category of adverse events which does not require hospitalisation and the recovery happens in a short period of time. The adverse events being reported in India mostly are pain at the injection site, nausea, fever and vomiting. Only 10 patients till now were hospitalised but that was also the short stay. So, we can say with utmost confidence that adverse events from the two coronavirus vaccines in India are in the mild category and is not a cause of great concern.
However, Dr Anita Ramesh cautioned people with allergies and those who are not healthy for taking COVID-19 vaccine. She said,
One of the important things to keep in mind, if you are unwell, I would recommend you should not go and take the vaccine. Take your shot only when you are completely fit and healthy. Though we know Indian vaccines are safe, they have minimum allergies and side-effects but as of today, till we have much data, allergic patients should simply avoid getting vaccinated.
On the other hand, Dr Rakesh Varma, Additional Director General of Health Services ensure people that both the vaccines approved in India are very safe. He said,
India has taken all the necessary precautions before introducing the vaccine to the larger group of people. So, we all should be assured that the vaccines are safe for our use and it will protect us from this pandemic. We have inoculated many people in our country, out of all the people vaccinated so far not a single serious adverse event has been reported and that itself is a big deal.
Sharing insights about the allergic reaction to the vaccine and side-effects of the vaccine in general, Dr Varma added,
Whenever our body comes in contact with any foreign particle, whether it is in the form of a drug, an injection or an allergen, our body reacts to it. Sometimes, it overreacts and that is called an allergy. It happens with 2-3 per cent of people and is not common. A lot of people have different allergies, as bodies react differently to different things, there are allergies related to food, dust etc. Whereas, a side-effect for example is – if I take a pain killer it relieves the pain but gives me heartburn. In this case, it is called a side-effect and it can be possible in more than 30 per cent of patients. Basically, with all the medicines, we cannot omit the possibility of having an allergic reaction or side-effects and that’s the same case with the COVID vaccines as well.
So, are there any common allergens when we talk about the composition of the two approved COVID vaccines in India?
Answering this question, Dr Ramesh added,
When we introduce any foreign material in our bodies, the body starts producing t-cell, b-cell, natural killer cells and antibodies and these all release cytokines and that’s why we get the common symptoms like pain, nausea, fever etc. Now, this vaccine is also a foreign material and that is why the common adverse events or allergens are associated with it. If a particular person has some or the other form of allergies like food allergy, drugs allergy etc. – in such a case, for now, my recommendations will be don’t take the vaccine shot.
Talking about skin allergies and food allergies specifically and should those people take the COVID-19 vaccine shot, Dr Vivek Nangia, Max Hospital, Saket said,
If people have skin allergies, they can possibly be allergic to many things, it can be cosmetics, dust or certain other chemicals. So, one must be very careful before taking the COVID vaccine in this case, they will need to ensure the site where they are taking the injection is free of allergies or very clean. A proper allergic history will be required before they get their jab by doctors on the site. If they are allergic to egg protein, then they will avoid giving the vaccine and if they have any allergies or history of allergy with the components used in the vaccine then also they will be avoided. Apart from this, I don’t think there is any other possible reason for avoiding the vaccine. People with food allergy or who are lactose intolerant can also take their vaccines as they are no components in the vaccine that interfere with these allergies.
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.