Webinar - COVID19 Vaccination for Employees
Experts say employers play a major role in encouraging employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and should strongly encourage it among their employees. Getting 70% or more of the public vaccinated or recovered from the COVID-19 virus is critical to containing the disease and creating herd immunity.
In this webinar by ekincare, our speaker Dr. Lavanya Aribandi talked about the role of vaccination in driving up immunity and getting society as well as workplaces back to normal.
As we all know, there are more than 100 million COVID-19 positive cases with more than 4.5 thousand deaths all over the globe. Out of this, about one-tenth of the cases were accounted for in India with over 1.5 thousand deaths. As the vaccination drive has started recently in India, there are two vaccines that are approved for vaccination of the people.
Let's go into details about the COVID-19 vaccination, the underlying mechanism of vaccination, the kinds of vaccines that are available and how they work, other practical aspects, and logistics.
Mechanism of production of immunity by vaccination
During any infection, for immunization to happen or for the person to get immune to that particular virus or organism, we need to introduce the disease-causing aspect of that organism into the human body that is enough to prime the body to produce antibodies, but not enough to give the disease. This is the underlying concept of immunization. We don't introduce either disease-causing that particular protein of the virus or killed virus in the human body. That way it doesn't cause the disease, but it primes the body to produce antibodies. And it also elicits certain memory in the human body. Hence, a few days or a few months later, when the human body is exposed to the real virus from society, the human body then recognizes this because of the previous memory and produces antibodies right away and prevents the body from getting the disease. Or even if the disease is caused, it will not be severe. So the same concept is used for COVID-19 vaccination.
Currently available vaccines in India
- This vaccine is made in collaboration with Oxford University with AstraZeneca. The technology for its manufacturing is transferred to Serum Institute of India(SII) and they are producing bulk vaccinations for Indians and also for some Third World countries.
- Covaxin is the second vaccine that is indigenously developed by BharatBiotec company which is a very reputed company in the immunization arena and has rolled out more than 18 vaccines so far.
So whenever we talk about any vaccine, we consider two things. One is efficacy and the other one is safety.
Efficacy means whenever you give a vaccine, is this vaccine producing enough bodies or enough immunity to be effective against that disease? Is it stopping the disease? That is efficacy.
Safety is, as the name suggests, is the vaccine safe enough that we are not causing more harm or we are not causing other conditions that would affect the human body and give long-term damage or adverse consequences?
According to the details so far, both the vaccines are safe and giving good results.
Similarities between these two vaccines
- Both are intramuscular injections - the best given in the deltoid muscle, that is the upper arm.
- Both the vaccines are consisting of two doses and unless both the doses are given, the vaccination is not complete. Also, the interval between the two doses is four weeks for both the vaccines.
- Both are stored at 2 to 8 degrees C temperature so that with good logistics, supply chain and all that in place with storing at these temperatures, these flu vaccines don't see any challenges in terms of transportation and deployment at the various sites.
- Both these vaccines can be given to people about 18 years of age and are not recommended for people below 18 years of age because of insufficient data in this age group. As time passes, as we get more data, as more people below 18 are enrolled in the trials, maybe they will roll out. But at this point, these vaccines are to be given only to people above 18 years of age.
- But they are not given for pregnant women or women who are not sure if they're pregnant at that point. Also, these are not for breastfeeding women because we are not sure how safe it is to give to breastfeeding women.
- Lastly, both vaccines have very similar adverse effects from immunization.
Who should and should not take a vaccine?
Who can take
- All individuals who are above 18 years of age.
- People with chronic medical conditions like Diabetes, Hypertension, heart disease, lung, neurological or kidney diseases, HIV, or other chronic conditions.
- People who had previous COVID -19 infection.
- People on blood thinners (only after consultation with a doctor),
Who cannot take
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- People who are acutely ill.
- People who recently had plasma therapy for COVID infection.
- Just got discharged from the hospital due to severe illness.
- People with active COVID 19 infection (Vaccination can be given at a later date to some of these groups, about 4 to 8 weeks later).
- People who developed serious adverse reactions as confirmed by a doctor, to the first dose of the vaccine - These people should not proceed for the second dose.
Also, people who are on steroids and immunosuppressive medicines, may not be having optimal immune response simply because of the fact that immunosuppressive medications and steroids, do decrease the immune response because usually these are given for autoimmune conditions when a person is having antibodies against their own issues. That's when these medicines are given or in the case of transplant patients, they should not reject the foreign organ given from someone or some other person. So due to these immunosuppressive medications, these people naturally develop suboptimal antibodies.
As we already said, both the vaccines are given 4 weeks apart and it is an intramuscular injection. Currently, the government is doing this vaccination drive in health care facilities. It is not allowing people to apply vaccines outside of health care facilities. So when the person who is already registered goes, they give answers to some simple questions and then take the vaccine. Post that, 30 minutes of observation is done in health care facilities just to make sure that the person is okay for 30 minutes.
Appropriate documentation and identification will be required and proper guidelines are to be followed. Also, the same vaccine has to be given as the second dose.
Another point is that at this point, a person cannot choose between the 2 vaccines because we have such a limited supply of vaccines. So, whatever is available at that facility at that point and whatever the government has supplied, people need to take that only.
Common symptoms experienced after the vaccine
Tenderness, pain, warmth, redness, itching, swelling or bruising where the injection is given, Feeling tired (fatigue,)Chills or feeling feverish, Headache, Feeling sick (nausea), Joint pain or muscle ache, Fever, Flu-like symptoms, such as high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, cough, and chills.
There are also a few questions that are commonly asked about this vaccination.
Can a person refuse the vaccine?
Definitely, they can refuse the vaccine. And there is no mandate that everyone who is offered should take the vaccine as it is completely an individual person's choice. The government is not mandating it. But at this point, all the data is suggesting that you will have many times more benefit from taking the vaccine than not taking the vaccine. So it is better to take a wise decision.
Do all family members need to take the vaccine or just the people who go out for work at this point?
Obviously, everyone should take the vaccine. Of course, the person who goes out more will be at increased risk because they're exposed to more people. But definitely, everyone in the household should take the vaccine. Whoever is eligible for this, except kids and pregnant women, everyone should take vaccinated. Because when a person takes the vaccine, he is immunized. But, there is no surety that he will not get the infection. Getting the disease and getting an infection are two different things. You can still get infected with COVID-19, but you may not develop the disease because your body is fighting with this virus and there are enough antibodies so that you don't get the disease. So when you're carrying that virus, you may still transmit it to your family members. So everyone in the household should take.
Who used to be prioritized in the scenario of limited supply?
If you consider the situation all over the globe, different countries are having different approaches. In India at this point, the thought is that health care workers should get it first because they are still at risk and are still treating COVID-19 patients. Next comes the front-end workers and then people with chronic medical conditions and people of age above 50 years. Then, of course, it will be rolled out for younger and healthy people too.
Can a person who is vaccinated be sure that he or she will not develop illness?
So basically here we are talking about the efficacy of the vaccine. If we talk about efficacy, the recent data said that it is more than 90 percent effective. That means it is effective and the person will not develop purposes. So you can be reasonably sure about not having at least severe illness that causes hospitalization and death.
Can one still get infected with COVID-19 after getting the vaccination?
Yes, for a few days, you may still have your body and your body's producing antibodies because you have a memory from previous vaccination. So you will not develop the disease, but you may get an infection with COVID-19. This data is still preliminary in the scientific studies. It is not completely sure that the person will not get infected, will not transmit the disease to others. As we get more data, maybe we'll be more sure.
A few areas that would be clarified soon
- When would the drive for the general public start?
- When would the government give approval for private organizations for driving vaccinations?
- Could it be soon given outside of healthcare facilities?