CME INDIA Presentation by Admin.

CME INDIA Guidelines for effectively managing COVID-19 Vaccination. Last Updated – 12th May 2021. PDF link at the end of the article.

Basic Framework By:

  • Dr. Akash Singh, MD (Med) MSc (Diabetes) Consultant Physician and Diabetologist Spandan Multi Speciality Hospital, Vadodara.
  • Dr. S. K. Gupta, MD (Med), FICP, CFM(France) Clinical Asst. Professor GS Medical College, CCSU, Uttar Pradesh India. Visiting Consultant, Max Super Specialty Hospital, New Delhi.
  • Dr. Kiran Shah, Consultant Physician MBBS, MD, Spandan Multi Speciality Hospital Vadodara.

Edited By:

  • Dr. N. K. Singh, MD, FICP, Diabetologist physician, Dhanbad, Editor – cmeindia.in.

Advisor and Reviewer:

  • Dr. Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Consultant Endocrinologist, G. D. Hospital & Diabetes Institute, Kolkata, West Bengal.

Invitee Reviewer:

  • Dr. Banshi Saboo, National President, RSSDI, Ahmedabad.
  • Dr. Mangesh Tiwaskar, Consultant Physician & Diabetologist, Mumbai, Hon. General Secretary, API.

Reviewer:

  • Dr. R. Rajasekar, MD, FICP, FACP (USA), FRCP (Glasgow), FRCP (Ireland), Consultant Physician & Diabetologist Heart & Diabetes Therapy Centre, Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.
  • Prof (Dr.) L. Sreenivasa Murthy, MD, FRCP(Edin.), FRCP(GLAS), FICP, FRSSDI, PDCR, Diabetes Care Specialist, Senior Physician, Clinical Trial Specialist, Lifecare hospital and Research Centre, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.
  • Dr. Venket Molio, Visiting faculty at Grace Cardiac, Victor Apollo Borkar and Trimurti hospital, Goa – Part of Covid Expert Committee – Govt. of Goa Task force.
  • Dr. Sajith Kumar R., Prof & Chief, Infectious Diseases, Govt Medical College Hospital, Kottayam, Kerala.

Inputs:

  • Dr. Sanjeev, Hematologist, Asso. Prof SGPGI, Lucknow.
  • Dr. Arvind Gupta, MD, FRCP (Glasgow), FRCP (Edin.), FICP, FACE, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, Rajasthan Hospital, Opposite, Jaipuria Govt Hospital, Jaipur.
  • Dr. Swati Srivastava, Professor of Medicine, SMS Medical College, Jaipur.
  • Dr. Sanjeev Phatak, Sr. Diabetologist, Ahmedabad.
  • Dr. Urman Dhruv, Sr. Physician and Director, Department of Internal Medicine and Diabetes at HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad.
  • Dr. Anand Malani, MD, Sr Physician, Sangil, Maharashtra.
  • Dr. Noni G Singha, MD, FICP, Consultant Physician, Dibrugarh, Assam.
  • Dr. Padmanava Shenoy, DM, Rheumatology, Chochin.

Special Thanks To:

  • Dr. B. B Rewari, MD, FRCP, Former Asso. Prof. of Medicine, Dr. RML Hospital, New Delhi. Scientist HIV/AIDS/STI/Hepatitis at WHO SEARO.
  • Dr. Anil Motta, Delhi, Consultant Internist, Max Hospital, Delhi.
  • Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, MD, DNB, MRCP, ABIM (Med) ABIM (Gastro), NY. Vice Chairman, Kerala state IMA Research Cell. Member, National IMA Task Force on Corona Epidemic, Cochin.
  • Dr. K Jagadeesan, Chief Medical Officer, MoHFW, Govt. of India, Chennai.
  • Dr. Hemshankar Sharma, Asso. Prof of Medicine, Nodal Officer-COVID, JLNMCH-Bhagalpur.
  • Dr. Keyur Acharya, MD (Med), MRCP (UK), IDCCM, EDIC, Intensivist, Bath, UK.
  • Dr Rajiv Kovil, M.B.B.S (Bom), D. Diabetology (Bom), Consultant Diabetologist, Mumbai.
  • Dr. Vaibhav Agnihotri, (DCH, DNB (Pediatrics), Fellowship Neonatology (IAP), PGPN, Boston, PCBD USA), Jaipur.
  • Dr. Richa Agnihotri, MBBS, DGO, DNB (Obs & Gynae), FGES (lap surgeon), Jaipur.

Design and Content Management:

  • Mr. Rishav Manaswi, Founder (Dynamic Cognition), MBA (France), 📧 cmeindia.in@gmail.com.

Disclaimer

The first guideline from CME INDIA – COVID-19 Management Protocol 2021 became an instant hit with medical practitioners. It amassed over 300,000 views and downloads in a matter of 2 weeks. With increasing demand for guidelines related to COVID-19 vaccination, CME INDIA is pleased to present its COVID-19 Vaccination Protocol 2021. This guideline has been compiled with inputs from numerous medical experts and the available literature. Please be aware that inputs and literature can change from time to time. The readers are hereby advised to follow their own discretion. With the feedback that we get from the readers and other medical experts this document will be updated accordingly.

Document Flow

(click on the links to see a specific part of the document)

1. Highlights
2. Introduction
3. World Covid-19 vaccine overview
4. Indian landscape of Covid-19 vaccine
5. Basics of 3 main Covid-19 vaccines currently available in India
6. Covid-19 vaccine indications and contraindications
7. Covid-19 vaccination common side effects
8. Covid-19 vaccination use in special situations
9. Covid-19 vaccination complications
10. Vaccine Failure
11. Future vaccines
12. Fifty Frequently asked questions
13. Supplementary information

Covat study
Myths and facts about Covid-19 vaccine
Recommendations – Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant and lactating women
CDC summary document for interim clinical considerations
Indian vaccination completion certificate
Vaccine hesitancy table
Update on injection technique is an advisory
Vaccination below 18 years
FOGSI Position Statement on Covid Vaccination for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
14. References

CME INDIA COVID-19 Vaccination Protocol - World's largest vaccination drive
Source: https://www.cowin.gov.in/home as on 28/04/2021

1.  Highlights

Mass immunization with vaccine is the only solution to prevent COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide. Therefore any ounce of hesitancy towards vaccination is not at all desirable. This guideline provides insight into the COVID-19 Vaccination Program in India and worldwide. This guideline provides information on the two main COVID-19 vaccines available in India along with their indications, contraindications, side effects, complication, and use in special populations, etc. Brief information about SPUTNIK-V, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna vaccines is also included. It also provides clarification and factual information on various circulating myths about the COVID-19 vaccines. A brief outlook on the vaccine failures and research and development of various future vaccines is also included. 

2.   Introduction

  • Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which has spread rapidly throughout the world and declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. The pandemic has severely ravaged health systems, and economic and social progress globally. COVID-19 most commonly manifests as fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and tiredness. Most people (~80%) experience mild disease and recover without hospitalization, while around 20% may become more seriously ill. While countries, including India, have taken strong measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 through better diagnostics and treatment, vaccines should provide a lasting solution by enhancing immunity and containing the disease spread.
  • India has launched one of the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive on Saturday, January 16, 2021 which has initiated a complex deployment plan aimed at stemming the wide spread of infections across a nation of more than 1.3 billion population.
  • India’s vaccination programme is mainly based on humanitarian principles and the doctors, nurses, medical and paramedical staff have been given first priority to get the vaccine doses before the rest of the population category.
  • In response to the pandemic, the vaccine development and approval process has been fast-tracked. Globally, over 274 candidate vaccines are in different stages of development. The majority of vaccines in clinical evaluation will require a two-dose schedule to be administered two, three or four weeks apart, through the intramuscular route.
  • The two main Covid-19 vaccines approved in India initially  for emergency use  are – COVISHIELD developed jointly by Oxford university and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical and manufactured in India by the Pune-based Serum Institute, and COVAXIN developed and manufactured by the Bharat Biotech. A third coronavirus vaccine Russia’s Sputnik V received approval recently amid COVID-19 second wave.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is a big issue. The main reasons for this hesitation among the people could be lack of supporting scientific data in public domain, misinformation about side effects, fast-track approvals and widespread reports of death in sick and elderly population.  In spite of all the steps taken by the government to spread awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine among the public, a lot of misinformation is being spread. This could lead to an unnecessary panic among people and dilute the entire purpose of this vaccination drive.
  • These guidelines briefly touch upon the various aspects related to COVID-19 vaccines use along with the myths associated with COVID-19 vaccines and few facts to clarify the misinformation so that authentic and verified information would reach the general public and healthcare workers help them take an informed decision.

3. World Covid-19 vaccine overview

CME INDIA COVID-19 Vaccination Protocol - World overview

The worldwide endeavor to create a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is bearing fruit. More than a dozen vaccines now have been authorized around the globe; many more remain in development.

Approved Vaccines Worldwide

Vaccine NameVaccine TypePrimary DevelopersCountry of Origin
Comirnaty (BNT162b2)mRNA-based vaccinePfizer, BioNTech; Fosun PharmaMultinational
Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine (mRNA-1273)mRNA-based vaccineModerna, BARDA, NIAIDUS
COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca (AZD1222); also, known as Vaxzevria and CovishieldAdenovirus vaccine (Chimpanzee)BARDA, OWSUK
Sputnik VRecombinant adenovirus vaccine (rAd26 and rAd5)Gamaleya Research Institute, Acellena Contract Drug Research, and DevelopmentRussia
COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen (JNJ-78436735; Ad26.COV2.S)Non-replicating viral vectorJanssen Vaccines (Johnson & Johnson)The Netherlands, US
CoronaVacInactivated vaccine (formalin with alum adjuvant)SinovacChina
BBIBP-CorVInactivated vaccineBeijing Institute of Biological Products; China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm)China
EpiVacCoronaPeptide vaccineFederal Budgetary Research Institution State Research Center of Virology and BiotechnologyRussia
Convidicea (Ad5-nCoV)Recombinant vaccine (adenovirus type 5 vector)CanSino BiologicsChina
CovaxinInactivated vaccineBharat Biotech, ICMRIndia
Table 1: Summary of approved vaccines worldwide.

  • The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is working with global health authorities and vaccine developers to support the development of vaccines against COVID-19.
  • Exploratory projects (split into confirmed and unconfirmed) are in the early planning stage with no in-vivo testing, and preclinical projects are at the stage of in-vivo testing and/or manufacturing clinical trials material.

CME INDIA COVID-19 Vaccination Protocol - Pipeline of COVID-19 vaccine candidates by the technology platform.
Figure 1: Pipeline of COVID-19 vaccine candidates by the technology platform.

  • Most COVID-19 vaccine development activity is in North America, with 36 (46%) developers of the confirmed active vaccine candidates compared with 14 (18%) in China, 14 (18%) in Asia (excluding China) and Australia, and 14 (18%) in Europe. Additional vaccine development efforts have been reported for China.

CME INDIA COVID-19 Vaccination Protocol - Profile of COVID-19 vaccine developers by type and geographic location
Figure 2: Profile of COVID-19 vaccine developers by type and geographic location.

Overview of key vaccines worldwide
Table 2: Overview of key vaccines worldwide. *Unknown if it as effective against variants as the trials were done before the variants occured. Source: coronavirustechhandboo.com/doctors.

4. Indian landscape of Covid-19 vaccine(1,2)

  • High-level coordination at the national, state, and district levels is essential for effective cooperation and collaboration among the key departments involved in administering COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The successful introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine will largely depend upon the quality of training conducted for enumerators for beneficiary listing, health functionaries for vaccination activities, social mobilizers for all mobilization activities, and communication training for all workers involved in the process of vaccination. Therefore, the COVID-19 vaccine was introduced once all training was completed in the district/block/planning unit.
  • COVID-19 vaccine was initially offered to healthcare workers, frontline workers and population above 60 years of age, population above 45 to 59 years of age with associated special comorbidities, and then to people above 45 years of age based on the evolving pandemic situation, and finally to the remaining population based on the disease epidemiology and vaccine availability.
  • The COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network (Co-WIN) system, a digitalized platform is being used to effectively roll out and scale up the mechanism for Covid Vaccine Distribution System. It will also be used to track the enlisted beneficiaries for vaccination and COVID-19 vaccines on a real-time basis. At the vaccination site, only pre-registered beneficiaries were vaccinated per the prioritization initially, and there was no provision for on-the-spot registrations. After a month, spot registrations were allowed.
  • Vaccinator Officer–Doctors (MBBS/BDS), staff nurse, pharmacist, auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM), lady health visitor (LHV); anyone authorized to administer an injection may be considered as a potential vaccinator.
  • India has announced to launch the phase 3 vaccination drive from May 01, 2021. The key aspects of this phase are:
    • Everyone above the age of 18 years is eligible to get vaccinated.
    • State governments can open up vaccination to any category of people above the age of 18 years.
    • Vaccine manufacturers can release up to 50% of their supply to State Governments.
    • Vaccine manufacturers can sell the vaccine in the open market at a pre-declared price.
    • The state government can procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers.
  • The initial two main Covid-19 vaccines approved in India for emergency use are – COVISHIELD manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute, and COVAXIN developed and manufactured by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech. India has shipped 64 million doses of vaccines to 86 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. The recipient countries include UK, Canada, Brazil and Mexico. Both Covishield and Covaxin have been exported – some in the form of “gifts,” others in line with commercial agreements signed between the vaccine makers and the recipient nations, and the rest under the Covax scheme, which is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and hopes to deliver more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries in less than a year.

5. Basics of 3 main Covid-19 vaccines currently available in India(3,4,5,6)

The 3 main Covid-19 vaccines currently available in India
Figure 3: Vaccines currently available in India – Vaccine Saves Life

Covaxin®

  • India’s Indigenous COVID-19 Vaccine developed by the Bharat biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV). The Central Licensing Authority has granted permission for the sale or distribution of covaxin® for restricted use in emergency situation in public interest.
  • The indigenous, inactivated vaccine is developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech’s BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) high containment facility.
  • The vaccine is developed using Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell derived platform technology. Inactivated vaccines do not replicate and are therefore unlikely to revert and cause pathological effects. They contain dead virus, incapable of infecting people but still able to instruct the immune system to mount a defensive reaction against an infection.
  • Unlike other inactivated vaccine developed for COVID-19 such as Sinovac and Sinopharm, covaxin® contains an added immune-potentiators called Toll-like receptor (TLR) 7/8 agonist (which is an imidazoquinolinone derivatives) in order to increase T-helper-1 (Th-1) response to boost, cell-mediated immunogenicity.  These changes have been primarily designed to increase the cell-mediated immunity which is classically lacking in inactivated vaccines and was not seen with Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccine. Moreover, a vaccine adjuvant called Algel-IMDG (Imidazoquinoline molecule chemisorbed on alum [Algel]) has been added to traffic vaccine antigen directly to the draining lymph nodes without diffusing into the systemic circulation in order to minimize the vaccine related local or systemic side effects.
  • It is a 2-dose vaccination regimen given 28 days apart. It is a vaccine with no sub-zero storage, no reconstitution requirement, and ready to use liquid presentation in multi-dose vials and stable at 2-8oC.
  • Covaxin® contains 6µg of whole-virion inactivated SARS- CoV-2 antigen (Strain: NIV-2020-770), and the other inactive ingredients such as aluminum hydroxide gel (250 µg), TLR 7/8 agonist (imidazoquinolinone) 15 µg, 2-phenoxyethanol 2.5 mg, and phosphate buffer saline up to 0.5 ml.
  • Covaxin® demonstrated strong immunogenicity and protective efficacy in several preclinical animal challenge studies conducted in hamsters & non-human primates and clinical trials in humans.
  • Global Acceptance of covaxin® – Bharat biotech has been approached by several countries across the world for the procurement of covaxin®. Clinical trials in other countries to commence soon. Supplies from government to government in the following countries to take place: Mongolia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Bahrain, Oman, Maldives and Mauritius.
  • Effective against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 – As per the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) recent announcement, covaxin® is known to work against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Figure 4: ICMR vaccine and efficacy against the variant strain.

CovishieldTM

  • CovishieldTM Vaccine is produced by Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SIIPL) and is approved for restricted use in emergency situation vaccine that may prevent COVID-19 disease in individuals 18 years of age and older.
  • One dose (0.5 ml) contains ChAdOx1 nCoV- 19 Corona Virus Vaccine (Recombinant) 5 × 1010 viral particles (vp) which is a recombinant, replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus vector encoding the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) glycoprotein. It is produced in genetically modified human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. This product contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The other ingredients include L-Histidine, L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate, Magnesium chloride hexahydrate, Polysorbate 80, Ethanol, Sucrose, Sodium chloride, Disodium edetate dihydrate (EDTA), Water for injection.
  • COVISHIELDTM is supplied as colorless to slightly brown, clear to slightly opaque and particle free ready for use solution for injection in rubber-stoppered multi-dose vial and single dose vial in below listed presentations:
    • 1 dose – 0.5 ml per vial
    • 2 dose – 1.0 ml per vial
    • 5 dose – 2.5 ml per vial
    • 10 dose – 5.0 ml per vial
    • 20 dose – 10 ml per vial
  • The COVISHIELDTM vaccination course consists of two separate doses of 0.5 ml each. The second dose should be administered between 4 to 6 weeks after the first dose. However, there is data available for administration of the second dose up to 12 weeks after the first dose from the overseas studies. So govt of India now revised its schedule and now it recommends duration should be between 6-12 weeks.
  • Special precautions for storage Store in a refrigerator (+2ºC to +8ºC). Do not freeze. Protect from light.
  • Once opened, multi-dose vials should be used as soon as practically possible and within 6 hours when kept between +2ºC and +25ºC. All opened multidose vials of COVISHIELDTM should be discarded at the end of immunization session or within six hours (4 hrs.) whichever comes first.
  • Covishield is having 76% vaccine efficacy against symptomatic Covid 19 disease,100% efficacy against severe or critical disease and 85% efficacy against symptomatic Covid 19 in participants 65 years and above.

Sputnik V

  • The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved the vaccine under the emergency use authorisation process recently, citing promising outcomes from clinical trials performed in Russia and additional Phase III clinical trials conducted in India in collaboration with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.
  • The developers of Sputnik V, which has been granted approval for emergency use by India’s drug controller, have tied up with Indian pharmaceutical firms such as Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma and Virchow Biotech to manufacture more than 850 million doses a year.
  • Gamaleya researchers developed a vaccine prototype using common cold viruses. Importantly, they chose to administer two distinct adenovirus vectors (rAd26 and rAd5) in a first and second dose, 21 days apart.
  • The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has initiated a trial in Russia to determine if combining doses of their vaccine with Sputnik V may result in additional benefit.
  • The efficacy of Sputnik V against COVID-19 was reported as 91.6% and was validated by published internationally peer-reviewed data. Dr. Reddy’s had earlier said that Sputnik V meets the primary endpoint of safety in the phase-2 clinical trials in India.
  • Russia’s Sputnik Light Covid-19 vaccine is a single shot version of Sputnik V.
  • Phase I and II of the safety and immunogenicity study of Sputnik Light had demonstrated that it can elicit the development of antigen specific IgG antibodies in 96.9% of individuals on the 28th day after vaccination, and that elicits the development of virus neutralising antibodies in 91.67% of individuals on the 28th day after immunisation.
  • Sputnik V will be the core vaccine while Sputnik Light will be cheaper and more affordable, and ensure that more people can be vaccinated quickly.
  • Sputnik Light works well with all existing mutations of the Coronavirus. It includes all the mutations in its code. Sputnik Light can also be used as a booster shot for other vaccines and trials are currently underway with AstraZeneca.
  • There are two forms of the Sputnik V vaccine – liquid, which would have to be stored at minus 18°C and lyophilized (freeze-dried), which can be stored at 2°C to 8°C.
  • The lyophilized form was developed especially for the transportation of the vaccine to remote places.
  • The vaccine is safe with mostly mild-to-moderate side effects.
  • Doses – Sputnik V requires two full doses with a gap of 21 days. The Sputnik Light is given as single dose.
  • Availability – Approved in India and is expected to be available from May onwards.

Interchangeability of vaccines

  • Vaccines are not interchangeable. However, in exceptional situations, such as a contraindication to the second dose of mRNA vaccine, interchangeability may be allowed.
  • Major UK trial looking at whether Covid vaccines can be mixed with different types of jabs used for first and second doses is being expanded.
  • Combining vaccines might give broader, longer-lasting immunity against the virus and new variants of it, and offers more flexibility to vaccine rollout.
  • Adults over 50 who have had a first dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca can apply to take part in the Com-Cov study.

Interval between Covid-19 and other (non-Covid-19) vaccines

  • A time interval of 14 days should be maintained between COVID-19 vaccination and other (non-COVID-19) vaccines. However, COVID-19 and other vaccines may be administered in a shorter period in urgent situations such as a tetanus toxoid containing vaccine for after wound management, or to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities to avoid delays to COVID-19 vaccination.

6. Covid-19 vaccine indications and contraindications

Indications

The currently available vaccines in India (Covaxin® and Covishield™) have been approved for restricted use in emergency situations for active immunization to prevent COVID-19 in individuals of 18 years of age and older.

Contraindications

Only absolute contraindication of Covid vaccine is known hypersensitivity to the components of the vaccine

  • Administration of COVID-19 vaccine is contraindicated in people with the following conditions:
    • Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic reactions to a previous dose of COVID-19
    • Immediate or delayed onset anaphylaxis or allergic reaction to vaccine injections or other pharmaceutical products.
    • Pregnancy and lactation – These appear to be relative precautionary contraindications:
      • The effect of this vaccine in pregnant and lactating women has not been established so far.  It is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women to take this vaccine due to the lack of substantial data demonstrating the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in this population by ICMR.
      • Although scientific literature of various approved vaccines available worldwide currently does not indicate that there was any major female reproduction or fetal, embryonal, or postnatal development safety concerns in animals that received COVID-19 vaccines before or during gestation.
      • It is not clear if these vaccines are secreted in human milk. Hence the effect of these vaccines in newborns or infants is unknown. However, if there is a clinical need, the potential benefits should be weighed against the risks and the individual should take an informed decision whether to take the vaccine or not after consultation with their gynecologist or consulting physician.
  • In certain cases, like the ones listed below, it is recommended to delay administration of the COVID-19 vaccine dose by 4-8 weeks:
    • Individuals with confirmed COVID-19 infection or suspected to have COVID-19 infection.
    • COVID-19 patients who were given convalescent plasma or anti-SARS CoV2 antibodies
    • Acutely ill patients who have been hospitalized (not necessarily in intensive care)
    • Individuals who have taken another vaccine within the previous 14 days or who intend to take a dose of another vaccine in the next four weeks after the planned vaccine dose.

Special Caution

  • The vaccine should be administered with special caution in the following patients:
    • Patients who have a history of or are currently having any bleeding disorder.
    • Individuals having a history of being SARS-CoV2 positive.
      • Currently, there are no data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in people who have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as a part of COVID-19 treatment. Studies indicate that reinfection is uncommon in the first 90 days after the COVID-19 infection hence vaccination should be delayed for at least 90 days. This precaution is being taken to avoid any potential interference of the antibody therapy with vaccine-induced immune responses. This recommendation applies to people who receive passive antibody therapy before receiving any vaccine dose and to those who receive passive antibody therapy after the first dose of this vaccine but before the second dose, in which case the second dose should be deferred for at least 90 days following receipt of the antibody therapy. Receipt of passive antibody therapy in the past 90 days is not a contraindication to receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • With history of chronic diseases and comorbidities including cardiac, neurological, pulmonary, metabolic, renal, or malignancies should be assessed on case basis. These groups are usually eligible vaccination.
  • Autoimmune conditions/ Immunocompromised individuals: Patients who have a history of immunodeficiency or are immunocompromised as in the case of HIV patients, can still be administered the vaccine. Since the immune system is already compromised, their response to the vaccine could be lesser than healthy individuals.  Data for responses in immuno-compromised individuals are currently insufficient to conclude the safety of this vaccine in these populations. However, if they are planning to get themselves vaccinated, then the vaccination should be completed at least two weeks before the initiation of immunosuppressive therapies. 

Precautions

According to recent reports, in some cases, a combination of thrombosis and thrombocytopenia, in some cases accompanied by bleeding, has been observed very rarely following vaccination with AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine (COVISHIELD™). The majority of these cases occurred within the first 14 days following vaccination. Some cases had a fatal outcome. Regulators and healthcare professionals are monitoring the safety of this vaccine on a continuous basis. As a precautionary measure, healthcare professionals should be alert to the signs and symptoms of thromboembolism and thrombocytopenia, as well as other coagulopathies in patients receiving this vaccine.

7. Covid-19 vaccination common side effects(7,8.9,10)

Before a vaccine is approved or administered to the public at large, it is tested for efficacy and safety. Despite the benefits that a vaccine provides, there are some risks associated with the use of these vaccines as well. If an individual experiences side effects after getting vaccinated, then it is an indication that the vaccine is doing its work and your immune system is responding to the vaccine well. Immune response or side effects of a vaccine can be different in different individuals based on the medical history of the individual, any underlying illnesses, the current level of immunity, and also the type of vaccine administered.

Mild-to-moderate side-effects are normal in individuals who have received the vaccine. In fact, they are signs that the body’s immune system is responding to the vaccine well. These side effects usually go away on their own after a few days.

The most commonly reported side effects of COVID-19 vaccines have been mild to moderate and short-lasting. They include:

Summary of side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
Figure 5: Summary of side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

  • Some adverse reactions in post-authorization experience have been reported following administration of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Moderna/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine-like severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and other hypersensitivity reactions e.g., rash, pruritus, urticaria, angioedema, diarrhea, vomiting.
  • In rare cases, some of the individuals after taking the COVID-19 vaccine reported having a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis, breathing difficulty, swelling of face, throat, and low blood pressure. However, these are very rare and the COVID-19 vaccines administered in the Indian population have shown a very good safety profile. 
  • There is a possibility that some individuals may experience serious and unexpected side effects other than those listed above. If the person experiences any of the listed side effect(s) or any other severe reactions in the body, please advise the person to contact/visit his/her healthcare provider or medical staff supervising the vaccination.
  • Reports from multiple vaccine studies indicate that many people do not experience any side effects with the first dose of the vaccine but may experience side effects with the second dose of the vaccine. Vaccines are proven to be safe and getting vaccinated may give you the required protection from a COVID-19 infection in the future. It is important to remember that mild or moderate side effects of the vaccine should not be a reason for avoiding vaccinations. We should get vaccinations as per the schedule and continue our practices of wearing a mask in public places, maintaining adequate social distancing, avoiding crowds, and washing hands often.

8. Covid-19 vaccination use in special situations

It is always recommended to schedule an immunization program for adults aged 18 years or older only after considering certain special situations such as age, existing medical conditions, and other indications. The same thumb rule applies to COVID-19 vaccination as well. The table below summarizes some special situations and COVID-19 vaccination recommendations in such situations.

Special Situations and Recommendations
General
Pregnancy and breastfeeding(11-14)
Pregnancy is not a contraindication to vaccine receipt. None of these vaccines contain a virus that replicates; thus, they do not cause disease, but nonspecific side effects from activation of the immune system may occur. Based on how mRNA and viral vector vaccines work, experts believe they are unlikely to pose a risk for pregnant persons, the fetus, or breastfeeding newborns.

However, data gathered from the US regarding the use of mRNA Vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in pregnancy did not show any safety concerns. The recommendation for these vaccines is that pregnant women in high-risk groups, like health care workers if choosing to get vaccinated, may receive the vaccine. The decision has to be taken after discussing the benefits weighed against the risks. The timing of the vaccine can be any time during the pregnancy; however, some may choose to wait until after 12 weeks and prior to the last trimester.

Regarding the Covishield and Covaxin vaccines, available in India, pregnant and lactating women have not been a part of the clinical trials. Hence, the ministry suggests that pregnant and lactating women or women not sure about their pregnancy status should not receive these vaccines. More data in the future will help us to understand the safety concerns for use of these vaccines in pregnancy.


At present, it is emphasized that individual practitioners cannot advise vaccination to pregnant and lactating women in India until there is a change in recommendations from the MOHFW, Govt. of India.  (See Supplementary section for Position Statement of The federation of obstetric & gynecological societies of India (FOGSI) on Covid Vaccination for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women/ For quick summary see figure below this table).
Allergy to food
People with allergies to food, drugs, latex, venom, previous non-COVID-19 vaccine can safely take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Previous history of severe Anaphylaxis
Only People with severe anaphylaxis to previous COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 vaccine should avoid the COVID-19 vaccine.
History of COVID-19 infection
People who have had COVID-19 infection in past must go for vaccination until four to six weeks after recovery.

Data is emerging that they might need just one shot of vaccine as Robust Neutralizing antibody titers and Strong T cell responses have been found in them even after a single shot of vaccination.
If Plasma Therapy Taken for COVID-19 infection
Persons previously treated for COVID-19 infection with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should have vaccination deferred for 90 days (from the date of treatment) to avoid potential interference with vaccine induced immune responses. Because during these 90 days the preformed antibodies transfused in external plasma will wean off and this will avoid the neutralization of virus(protein) produced by the COVID-19 vaccine.
If suffered from severe illness
People with severe disease who are admitted should wait at least 4 to 10 weeks after recovery before taking any vaccine.
Diabetes
Diabetic patients need to get vaccinated on priority as this condition is considered an immunosuppressed state and diabetic patients are most likely to suffer from severe symptoms of COVID-19 if infected.

Diabetic patients should go for vaccination after taking food/breakfast.
Bronchial Asthma
People with nasal allergy, Bronchial asthma & skin allergy can be safely vaccinated.
Undergoing planned surgery
Those who are planning to undergo surgery should take the vaccine at least 2 weeks in advance for protection.
Elderly people
Elderly people should be encouraged to take the vaccine as the risk of COVID-19 mortality is high among them.
On Anti-platelet therapy/Anti-coagulant(24)
People taking anti-platelet drugs such as Aspirin, Clopidogrel, Ticagrelor, and Prasugrel need not stop these drugs before vaccination.

However, people on oral anticoagulants such as vitamin K agonists – Acitrom and warfarin can get vaccinated in one month if their latest INR test result is between 2.0 -3.0 and if INR is >3.0, they have to wait till INR reaches below the upper level of the therapeutic range (<3.0) to get vaccinated.

People on NOAC drugs such as Dabigatran, Apixaban, and Rivaroxaban can get vaccinated if no active bleeding issues are present.

In all the above cases, a fine needle equal to 23 gauge or finer caliber such as 25 gauge should be used and 2 min pressure without rubbing should be applied at the injection site to prevent hematoma.

The patient should be prior informed of the risk of hematoma from the injection.
On steroid treatment
People who are on Corticosteroids should decrease the dose to less than 7.5 mg of prednisolone or equivalent per day if possible, for six weeks when taking the vaccine because higher doses act as immunosuppressive and may decrease immunity development.

Inhaled steroids may not be tapered when taking the COVID-19 vaccine because the systemic bioavailability of inhaled corticosteroids is low.
Acyclovir therapy
Firstly, if anti-viral drugs acyclovir / Famciclovir / valacyclovir would render the vaccine less effective.  These drugs have the potential to inactivate the adenovirus in Astra Zeneca /other vector-based vaccines making the vaccination ineffective.

The experts from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology clearly say that such therapy would not be a reason to delay the COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Bharat Biotech Covaxin which has an inactivated virus or mRNA vaccines could be preferred choices in such settings.

However, those having active Zoster may defer their vaccination until completion of treatment and recovery as CDC to advises to avoid COVID-19 vaccine during active disease.
Autoimmune and Rheumatological conditions
Patients with Autoimmune diseases
For patients with Autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s Syndrome, no disease-specific data exists. Vaccination should be encouraged and extra caution should be taken.
Immunocompromised people(25)
Currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines and therefore can be safely administered to immunocompromised people. People with stable HIV infection were included in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, though data remain limited.

Immunocompromised people can receive COVID-19 vaccination. Data are currently insufficient to inform optimal timing of COVID-19 vaccination among people who are planning to receive immunosuppressive therapies. Ideally COVID-19 vaccination should be completed at least two weeks before initiation of immunosuppressive therapies.
People with Positive ANA
ANA can be positive in number of conditions like SLE, Sjogrens Sx, Scleroderma Rheumatoid Arthritis and can even be false positive without any illness.

Vaccination should be encouraged in all patients with positive ANA.

Vaccination is advised even in Frank cases of SLE Sjogren Six as current vaccines are unlikely to lead to flare up or progression of these conditions.

However, as patients of SLE have higher incidence of Drug induced adverse reactions and hypersensitivity. Hence, Extra caution is advised among them during process of Vaccination.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be safe for pregnant women or children with lupus?

There are not yet any data on the safety and effectiveness of any of the current COVID-19 vaccines being studied for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, due to the overall safety of the vaccines and the known risks of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that pregnant women should receive the vaccine if they are in another high priority group.

Evidence: The American College of Rheumatology COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Guidance recommends that people with autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic disease (which includes lupus) get the vaccine unless they have an allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine.
HIV patients(22,23)
People with HIV infection or other immunocompromising conditions or people who take immunosuppressive medications or therapies might be at increased risk for severe COVID-19. No data are available to establish COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy in these groups. However, the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines and therefore can be safely administered to immunocompromised people. People with stable HIV infection were included in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, though data remain limited.

Ideally, COVID-19 vaccination should be completed at least two weeks before the initiation of immunosuppressive therapies.

When it is not possible to administer a complete COVID-19 vaccine series (i.e., two doses of vaccine) in advance, people on immunosuppressive therapy can still receive COVID-19 vaccination. Decisions to delay immunosuppressive therapy to complete COVID-19 vaccination should consider the person’s risks related to their underlying condition.

There is no evidence that HIV medications can prevent or treat COVID-19. Some HIV medications, such as a combination of tenofovir/emtricitabine, are currently being studied to see if they can treat COVID-19 but the results of these studies are pending. Studies on lopinavir/ritonavir, a protease inhibitor combination, have not found it to be effective.

Because there is no evidence that HIV medications can treat or prevent COVID-19, guidelines recommend against changing HIV treatment regimen to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Currently authorized vaccines have no interactions with HIV medications. It is not recommended that people with HIV stop their HIV medicines when they receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Stopping HIV medications could put the patient at greater risk for HIV-related illnesses and at greater risk for serious infection due to COVID-19.

Will the vaccine be effective if CD4 count is < 200?

The Interim Guidance for People with HIV and COVID-19 recommends that because people with HIV appear to be at increased risk for serious illness due to COVID-19 due to comorbidities and other factors, so people with HIV should be included in the high-risk medical category for vaccine prioritization without regard to CD4 count.

The CDC currently states that individuals who are immunocompromised, including people with HIV, may receive the Covid vaccines if there are no contraindications, such as known allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine.

The recommendation for all people with HIV and is not based on CD4 count or viral suppression. Given that the mRNA/vector based / inactivated virus Vaccines do not contain SARS-CoV-2 (live or attenuated), there is no reason to believe the vaccine will be less safe in persons with low CD4 counts. It is not yet known if the level of protection from the virus will be as strong as for those who do not have HIV, or for those with lower CD4 counts or measurable viral loads.
Rheumatoid Arthritis(15,16)
In clinical scenario like – 55 yr. Female patient who took inj Plamumab 40 mg 15 days back and she is also taking Sulfasalazine 1000 mg BD, and along with Etorocoxib, can she go for Vaccination? If yes, then what blood test she should get done before vaccination?

She can go for vaccination safely and no modification in above treatment is warranted.

Nor any delay or change in Schedule of vaccination is required. No Tests are required to be done for purpose of vaccination.

Patients on HCQ, Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG) and Steroids less than 20mg of Prednisolone (or equivalent) can very safely take vaccine.

Patients on Sulfasalazine Leflunomide, cyclophosphamide (oral), Azathioprine, and steroids (more than 20mg of Prednisone equivalent) can go for vaccine*safely. Try reducing the dose of Steroids to less than 20mg per day if disease activity permits.

Patients taking Adalimumab the TNF blocking monoclonal antibody (Plamumab) can take vaccine safely. No change in timing of drug or vaccine warranted.

Patients on Methotrexate and/or Jak inhibitors should stop the dose at least one week after each dose of vaccine. Patients of Rituximab should stop the therapy 4 weeks after each dose of Vaccine.
Patients on HCQ, Intravenous Immune Globulin (IVIG), and Steroids less than 20mg of Prednisolone (or equivalent)
Can very safely take COVID-19 vaccine.
Patients on Sulfasalazine Leflunomide, cyclophosphamide (oral), Azathioprine, and steroids (more than 20mg of Prednisone equivalent)
Can very safely take COVID-19 vaccine. However, they need to reduce the dose of Steroids to less than 20mg per day if disease activity permits.
Patients taking Adalimumab the TNF blocking monoclonal antibody (Plamumab)
Can very safely take COVID-19 vaccine. No change in the timing of the drug or vaccine is warranted.
Patients on Methotrexate and/or Jak inhibitors
Consensus – Stop the dose at least one week prior to and after each dose of the vaccine.

American college of Rheumatology says: Hold MTX 1 week after each vaccine dose, for those with well controlled disease; no modifications to vaccination timing.
On immunosuppressive agents
The vaccination should be planned in such a manner that immunosuppressive effects of steroid injection have little chance of interfering with the development of Antibodies after a vaccine.
On Rituximab therapy
Rituximab is given for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; Rheumatoid arthritis should be avoided for at least 4 weeks [drug acts by attaching to B cells].
Neurological Conditions
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
The vaccines are not likely to trigger an MS relapse or have any impact on long-term disease progression.

The risk of getting COVID-19 far outweighs any risk of having an MS relapse from the vaccine.

Any vaccine can cause side effects, including a fever. A fever can make MS symptoms worse temporarily, but they should return to prior levels after the fever is gone.

Even if one has side effects, it’s important to get the second dose of the vaccine for it to be effective.

The vaccines are safe to use with MS medications.

However, some MS medications may make the vaccine less effective, but it will still provide some protection. For those taking Kesimpta, Lemtrada, Ocrevus, or Rituxan— consider coordinating the timing of the vaccine with the timing of MS medications dose.

Interferons (Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy, Rebif) and glatiramer acetate (Copaxone) are unlikely to impact negatively on COVID-19 severity. There is some preliminary evidence that interferons may reduce the need for hospitalization due to COVID-19.

The evidence available suggests that people with MS taking dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), diroximel fumarate (Vumerity), teriflunomide (Aubagio), fingolimod (Gilenya), natalizumab (Tysabri), ozanimod (Zeposia), and siponimod (Mayzent) do not have an increased risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

People with MS who are taking them or ofatumumab (Kesimpta) should be particularly vigilant regarding the advice here to reduce their risk of infection.

More data on the use of alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) and cladribine (Mavenclad) during the COVID-19 pandemic are required to assess their safety.

People with MS who are currently taking these therapies and are living in a community with a COVID-19 outbreak should discuss their current lymphocyte counts with their healthcare professional. If their counts are low, they should isolate as much as possible to reduce their risk.
Epilepsy
No study to date has assessed the COVID-19 vaccine in patients with epilepsy. Epilepsy does not increase the risk of contracting COVID-19.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that epilepsy is specifically associated with a higher risk of side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no evidence that this vaccination results in worsening of epilepsy, or brain injury.

For people with epilepsy, the risk of COVID-19 infection and potential complications far outweighs the risk of side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine.

Fever is a common side effect after getting a vaccine and it may precipitate Seizure in some people with epilepsy. If someone has seizures triggered by fever, it may be good to talk to one’s health care provider to assess risk-benefit. Pre-emotive use of Paracetamol for 48 hours following vaccination could be helpful and may be considered on an individual basis.

Further, it is recommended to receive the vaccine, at such a location where medical staff are available with a Seizure Action Plan including rescue therapies.
Migraine
Headache is a very common side effect of currently approved COVID-19 vaccines. The leaflet inserts of Covishield (AstraZeneca Oxford) lists headache among common adverse events encountered in more than 1 in 10 people after vaccination. Practically speaking incidence is far more than listed, Unpublished reports say headache is being seen in more than 50%people. Pfizer openly admits that ~64.5% of people reported headaches after the jab.

Those who have migraines are concerned about the headache as a side effect they experience after getting the shot.

It is possible that the current COVID-19 vaccines may precipitate migraine. Usually, it is mild and likely to subside in a day or two with the usual medications.

Rare instances of debilitating and prolonged headaches requiring neurological intervention and imaging studies have been reported in social media.

The physicians, as well as patients, should be aware and make an informed decision especially in the tropical climate of India where the incidence of headache is bound to increase in approaching summers. It may be prudent to postpone the same at least till acute attack subsides completely.
Bell’s palsy
Patients with recurrent Bell’s palsy already on valacyclovir for prophylactic antiviral therapy may also be encouraged to take the COVID-19 vaccine as vaccines offer a substantial net benefit to public health.

Even for patients with a history of Bell’s palsy associated with HSV-1 or the varicella-zoster virus, it is recommended to take the vaccine.
Neuropathy especially Guillain Barre Syndrome(19)
Those who have recovered, can take it.
Haematological Conditions
Bone Marrow Transplant Therapy
Those being treated for Blood cancer and who have been given Bone marrow transplant should wait at least 3 months.

Those being given Monoclonal antibodies can be given vaccine safely as it is not an alive vaccine.

Those without bone marrow transplant/Cell therapy should wait for vaccine till Absolute Neutrophils Count returns to normal. Monitor by Absolute Neutrophil count.
Multiple Myeloma (MM)(20)
Recent data suggest that most patients with multiple myeloma are likely to have some protection after one vaccination, which might improve after the second vaccination.

If patients do not develop a positive antibody test after first it will be important to track this group closely, as non-responders could be left vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infection. These patients might need to take extra precautions to reduce infection risk, although they might have some degree of protection through other immune mechanisms or after their second vaccination.

Patients with MM are at a high risk for severe COVID-19 with high mortality rates. Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are endorsed in patients with MM without any other contradiction.
Haemophilia and Bleeding disorders(45)
Even though recent large clinical studies have not included patients with haemophilia or hereditary haemorrhagic diseases, these patients should be vaccinated like everyone else. However, certain precautions and additional information are relevant and are detailed below:

Haemophilia patients belonging to risk groups according to their age, state of health or occupation will be vaccinated as a priority like others in the general population with the same risk profile.

There is currently no reason to select a particular type of vaccine for bleeding disorder patients.

Any adverse events (eg haematoma, allergic reaction) should be reported to a haemophilia treatment centre.

People with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders who have had a history of allergic or anaphylactic reactions to blood products, including factor concentrates, plasma and cryoprecipitate, but have not had reactions to previous vaccines, are at no greater risk than the overall population for a reaction to a COVID‐19 vaccine.

For patients with severe/moderate haemophilia or Type 3 von Willebrand disease (VWD) (regardless of whether they routinely receive prophylaxis or on‐demand treatment) the injection should be given after a FVIII or FIX injection, or following a von Willebrand factor‐containing injection, respectively. Vaccinations have not been shown to prime FVIII or FIX inhibitor formation in patients with haemophilia.

Mild haemophilia patients with baseline FVIII or FIX levels below 10% may also need haemostatic treatment prior to vaccination and should consult their haemophilia treatment centre.

For patients with a basal FVIII or FIX level above 10%, no haemostatic precautions are required. Similarly, patients on emicizumab (with or without an inhibitor) can be vaccinated by intramuscular injection at any time without extra haemostatic protection. Depending on their baseline VWF activity levels patients with Type 1 or 2 VWD should use therapies (i.e. DDAVP if available, tranexamic acid), in consultation with their haemophilia treatment centre.

All rare bleeding disorder patients (including those with thrombocytopenia and/or platelet function disorders) should be vaccinated.

There are no specific contraindications to vaccination related to complications of haemophilia and other bleeding disorders or their therapies.

Immune tolerance, treatment of hepatitis C and HIV and other conditions do not contraindicate vaccination.
Chronic ITP (Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) on Eltromopeg
Eltrombopeg is thrombopoietin (TPO) receptor agonist given to patients of ITP. It acts by attacking to Thrombopoietin receptors leading to increased platelet counts. IT is not an immunosuppressive drug. Hence, no drug related issues are expected during vaccination.

But as the patient is having ITP, it is advised to get platelet count and go for IM Injection only if platelet count is more than 50000.

If patient is on corticosteroids it may be desirable to stabilize patient on minimum dose of Corticosteroids (Less than 20mg per day of Prednisolone) before the Vaccination and for six weeks thereafter.
Acute Leukaemias, Myelodysplastic Syndrome and Myeloproliferative Disorders(46)
Given the acute and urgent nature of a diagnosis of acute leukaemia, vaccination should not delay definitive therapy. For patients in remission, vaccination should be facilitated as soon as possible with consideration for thrombocytopenia and the associated risk of bleeding.
Anaemia(17,18)
1. G6PD deficiency

If someone is G6PD deficient then prevention of infection is important.  There is no scientific evidence that vaccines are a medication that will trigger an episode. Therefore, immunisations are not contraindicated in people with G6PD deficiency.

One case of haemolytic anaemia was seen in a control arm of Covishield trial but it was not clarified if patient was having underlying G6P deficiency. It is noteworthy that Covishield trial Used meningococcal vaccine as placebo.

2. Aplastic Anaemia

Where possible its advisable proceeding with vaccination unless someone have a contra-indication.

Important to understand that for people with aplastic anaemia, there is a small risk of relapse associated with all vaccinations, and research is still ongoing into this. The general advice is that the benefit of being vaccinated against COVID-19 outweighs the risk associated with vaccination, however, one should discuss one’s own circumstances with medical team.

The vaccine is administered intra-muscular which can, in some cases increase the risk of bleeding. If platelet count is below 30 thousand, you should seek advice from your medical team

If someone is within 6 months of receiving ATG it is possible one may not respond to the vaccine, so   advised to discuss with local haematology team before undergoing vaccination.
People with Cancer(21)
Many expert medical groups recommend that most patients with cancer or a history of cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine because those with a fragile immune system are at risk for severe COVID-19 disease. CDC too has included cancer patients in high priority groups for vaccination.

Main concern about the vaccine is whether it’s safe for people with cancer.  Yes, they are likely to be safe as none of the approved vaccine is live virus vaccines which are typically are not recommended for cancer caregivers.

Second concern is how effective the vaccine will be, especially in people with weakened immune systems.

Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy (chemo), radiation, stem cell or bone marrow transplant, or immunotherapy can affect the immune system, which might make the vaccine less effective. It is best to enquire from care giver about Vaccine in specific situation.

No one has specific information yet on how effective the vaccines might be in people being treated for cancer, it’s possible that the vaccines might not be as effective in people with weakened immune systems as compared to people with healthy immune systems.

Despite this, getting even some protection from the vaccine is better than not having any protection.  
Covid vaccine with other vaccines
None of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines are live virus vaccines. Because data are lacking on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the vaccine series should routinely be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccine.

However, COVID-19 and other vaccines may be administered within a shorter period in situations where the benefits of vaccination are deemed to outweigh the potential unknown risks of vaccine co-administration (e.g., tetanus-toxoid-containing vaccination as part of wound management, rabies vaccination for post-exposure prophylaxis, measles or hepatitis A vaccination during an outbreak) or to avoid barriers to or delays in to COVID-19 vaccination (e.g., in long-term care facility residents or healthcare personnel who received influenza or other vaccinations before or upon admission or onboarding). If COVID-19 vaccines are administered within 14 days of another vaccine, doses do not need to be repeated for either vaccine.  

Rabies vaccination should not be withheld as it is an urgent situation.

Booster doses – The need for and timing for COVID-19 booster doses have not been established. No additional doses are recommended at this time.
Table 4: Recommendations for use of COVID-19 vaccine in special situations.(11-25)

Pregnancy and vaccination - Covid 19 - CME INDIA
Figure 6: Pregnancy and vaccination

When to get vaccinated after Covid-19 infection - CME INDIA
Figure 7: When to get vaccinated after Covid-19 infection

Covid-19 vaccination and Blood Thinners
Figure 8: Covid-19 vaccination and Blood Thinners

Covid-19 vaccination and Immunomodulatory Therapies – RMD patients
Figure 9: Covid-19 vaccination and Immunomodulatory Therapies – RMD patients. Source: ACR

9. Covid-19 vaccination complications(26,27,28,29)

Emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pose a serious global clinical concern. Despite adequate evidence of vaccine efficacy is available, there are reports of individuals experiencing complications related to COVID-19 vaccination. These observations indicate a potential risk of illness after successful vaccination and subsequent risk of infection with the variant virus, and they provide support for continued efforts to prevent and diagnose infection and to characterize variants in vaccinated persons.

1. Delayed local injection-site reactions to vaccine may occur, though they are uncommon (T-cell mediated reactions).

2. Other reactions observed include aphthous ulcers, petechial rash, ear eczema, painful lymphadenitis (axillary), episcleritis, recurrent urticaria, seizures, neurological pain, tremors, spinal pain, transient blurring of vision.

3. In susceptible high-risk (pro-inflammatory and/or pro-coagulative) individuals, reactogenic vaccines can trigger transient thrombo-inflammation lasting the first few (up to four) days. This was first reported in Norway in mid-January and 33 deaths occurred in a short time after the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine) were reported as well. All of them were elderly (≥75 years) and frail individuals. UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency reported 227 deaths shortly after the Pfizer vaccine and 275 deaths after the AstraZeneca vaccine, through February 28. The Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany reported the deaths of 7 elderly people shortly after receiving the Pfizer vaccine. The US, which has three vaccines (Pfizer + Moderna + J&J), reported 1637 deaths till March 8. All deaths were in comorbid patients, either evident or silent.

4. Austria was the first country to report coagulation disorders (venous thromboembolism).

  • Thirty-nine deaths out of 71 deaths reported in India (till 13th March) were related to cardiovascular disease. Three patterns have been observed: Venous thrombosis presenting as pulmonary embolism, arterial thrombosis presenting as sudden cardiac event and frail people, who died suddenly after the vaccine.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is an acute thrombo inflammatory non-replicative non-contagious viral protein. Like the natural infection, vaccines too may cause inflammation, thrombosis, and immune reactions. However, unlike the vaccine, the natural viral protein will not cause allergy (anaphylaxis). The vaccine will cause allergic reactions.
  • The AstraZeneca vaccine is showing more reactogenicity than other vaccines as double reactions are occurring in the body.

5. Local injection site BCG-like reactions (type 4 reaction) may occur between the 2nd and 4th day, which usually fade after the 6th Such reactions may occur even remotely. No scar develops.

6. Non-Ig-E mediated (complement-mediated) reactions may occur after 6 hours: angioneurotic edema, rash, urticaria; not fatal and can be prevented by montelukast + levocetirizine.

7. The adenovirus also provokes the immune system by switching off the cell’s alarm response. Anaphylaxis occurs with 15-30 minutes of the vaccine. Allergy is caused by a protein (PEG or polysorbate 80). Serious allergic reactions occur one in a million. Their incidence is very low in India.

8. A case of death due to rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysm 10 days after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has been reported in Thailand.

9. Post vaccine loss of smell and taste in a person who developed loss of smell and taste post-COVID-19 also.

10. Sympathetic overactivity can manifest as accelerated hypertension and transient atrial fibrillation.

11. Transient hyperglycemia after the vaccine has been reported.

12. Post-vaccine systemic inflammation with normal pulmonary function (no pneumonia on HRCT chest) may occur manifesting as rising CRP and high fever. Inflammation can be prevented: Prevent Th17 response by preloading with vitamin D; if routine inflammation with raised CRP, preload with colchicine; if very high LDL, preload with a statin; if cardiac manifestations, preload with doxycycline; in high-risk patients, preload with aspirin.

13. Antibody-dependent enhancement post-vaccination (ADE)

  • It occurs when the antibodies generated during an immune response recognize and bind to a pathogen, but they are unable to prevent infection. Instead, these antibodies act as a “Trojan horse,” allowing the pathogen to get into cells and exacerbate the immune response.
  • The risk of exacerbating COVID-19 severity via ADE is a potential hurdle for antibody-based vaccines and therapeutics.
  • ADE can increase the severity of multiple viral infections.
  • ADE in respiratory infections is included in a broader category named enhanced respiratory disease (ERD). It also includes non-antibody-based mechanisms such as cytokine cascades and cell-mediated immunopathology.
  • Neither COVID-19 disease nor the new COVID-19 vaccines have shown evidence of causing ADE. People infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have not been likely to develop ADE upon repeat exposure. This is true of other coronaviruses as well. Likewise, studies of vaccines in the laboratory with animals or the clinical trials in people have not found evidence of ADE.

14. Vaccine induced ITP

  • IVIG is drug of choice. Should be given earliest to nullify vaccine antibody binding to platelet.
  • For milder cases without bleeding symptoms, it should be treated like acute ITP i.e., Steroids (prednisolone or Dexamethasone).
  • Relapse or refractory case will require TPO mimetics (Elthrombopag/ Romiplostim) or other 2nd line drugs like Azathioprine/ Dapsone/ MMF
  • Rituximab is another option for release or refractory cases.

15. Vaccine induced Immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VIIT)(30,31)

  • A rare syndrome of thrombosis, often cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, and thrombocytopenia is being noted and is highlighted as affecting patients of all ages and both genders; at present, there is no clear signal of what the risk factors are.
  • For patients presenting with acute thrombosis or new onset thrombocytopenia within 28 days of receiving COVID 19 vaccination, VIITP may be the reason. The cases are unusual because despite thrombocytopenia, there is progressive thrombosis, primarily venous, with a high preponderance of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Arterial events have also been noted.
  • Typical laboratory features include a platelet count less than 150 x 109/L, very raised D Dimer levels above the level expected for VTE and inappropriately low fibrinogen. Antibodies to platelet factor 4 (PF4) have been identified and so this has similarities to heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), but in the absence of patient exposure to heparin treatment. These antibodies are detected by ELISA HIT assay.

Diagnostic VITT Flow chart.
Figure 10: Diagnostic VITT Flow chart.

Possible case

Any patient presenting with acute thrombosis or new onset thrombocytopenia within 28 days of receiving COVID 19 vaccination.

Investigations

  1. Check a CBC-specifically to confirm thrombocytopenia <150 x 109/L
  2. Coagulation screen, including Clauss fibrinogen and D Dimers
  3. Blood film to confirm true thrombocytopenia and identify alternative causes
    • Unlikely case:
      • Reduced platelet count without thrombosis with D dimer at or near normal and normal fibrinogen.
      • Thrombosis with normal platelet count and D dimer <4000 and normal fibrinogen
    • Probable case:
      • If D Dimers >4000.
  4. Serum sample for PF4 antibody assay (HIT assay).

Management of a suspected case – treat first while awaiting confirmatory diagnosis.

  1. AVOID platelet transfusions. Discuss any required interventions.
  2. AVOID all forms of heparin including heparin-based flushes. (It is unknown whether heparin exacerbates the condition but until further data is clear, this is best avoided).
  3. GIVE intravenous immunoglobulin 1g/kg (divided into two days if needed) and review clinical course. Further IVIG may be required balancing bleeding and thrombotic risk.
  4. ANTICOAGULATE with non-heparin-based therapies such as DOACs, argatroban, fondaparinux or danaparoid depending on the clinical picture.
  5. Steroids and/or plasma exchange may also be considered.
  6. Avoid thrombopoietin receptor agonists.
  7. Antiplatelet agents are not recommended based on current experience.
  8. If no overt thrombosis, but thrombocytopenia with raised D Dimer, thromboprophylaxis with non-heparin-based anticoagulants should be considered – balancing bleeding and thrombotic risk. DOAC, fondaparinux or danaparoid can be used.
  9. Until further structures are in place, advice on management should be sought from the Expert Haematologist.

Confirmed case

If PF4 antibodies positive by ELISA

  1. Continue ongoing treatment as above.
  2. Serum sample for Covid antibody testing and storage.
  3. EDTA sample – to be stored locally until location of central lab is confirmed If negative, please discuss before changing treatment.

NHS algorithm for management of suspected vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia.
Figure 11: NHS algorithm for management of suspected vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia.(32)

16. Herpes zoster following the COVID‐19 vaccine(33)

It is reported in large numbers since the start of Corona Vaccination. Almost 1 out of 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime. It is not surprising that shingles cases are appearing since many of the millions of people across the world who have gotten their COVID-19 vaccine are older and the risk of getting shingles increases with age. Almost certainly, those who got shingles did not have themselves Shingrix vaccinated. In fact, the vaccine has been out of supply for quite some time. Also, in general, the CDC advises that no other vaccines be given within 14 days of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The review of the literature doesn’t point to a constant pattern in the appearance of Zoster and COVID-19 Vaccination. Herpes zoster caused by reactivation of VZV may occur spontaneously or be triggered by trauma, stress, fever, or immunosuppression. It is well known that fever, stress are common side effects of current COVID-19 vaccines.

17. Central venous sinus thrombosis

It is reported with Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Europe Some patients developed cases of Central Venous Sinus Thrombosis (CVST), Pulmonary embolism, Splanchnic Vein thrombosis, DVT, etc. following Astra Zeneca vaccine AZD1222. Most of the patients were women under age 55, and the fatality rate among those who develop clots is as high as 40%. Central Venous Sinus Thrombosis typically happens between four and 20 days after getting the Astra Zeneca vaccine and the symptoms mimic a stroke or a heart attack. The mechanism is probably AZD1222 vaccine-induced prothrombotic state caused by the development of platelet-activating antibodies directed against platelet factor 4 (PF4). This prothrombotic disorder clinically resembles heparin-induced thrombocytopenia but showing a different serological profile. Though instances of such thrombosis are rare but grave nature of complication makes it a matter of concern.

18. COVID-19 Vaccination and Neuropathy especially Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS)

Concerns about the risk of GBS in response to vaccines date back to 1976 when CDC has noted: “there was a small increased risk of GBS after swine flu vaccination.” Later It was found that the risk of GBS was no more than 1 additional case per one lakh doses of vaccine.  Hence the CDC later corrected itself stating “Studies suggested that it is more likely that a person will get GBS after getting the flu than after vaccination.” With billions of the world’s populations having been immunized one would have got thousands and thousands of cases of GBS associated with the vaccine if both had any correlation.  However, not more than one case of post-vaccination GBS has been reported to CDC to date. CDC is of the view that no instances of GBS were seen during clinical trials of the vaccines, that no published studies suggest any cause for concern, and that neither the CDC nor FDA recommends against the vaccine due to GBS. Concerns that COVID-19 vaccination might cause GBS in any significant numbers are therefore almost certainly unfounded. Scientists are studying the risk to benefit ratio of the vaccine in someone who previously developed Guillain Barre Syndrome after vaccination.

10. Vaccine failure(35)

  • To understand Vaccine failure, we should first understand vaccine efficacy. Vaccine efficacy/effectiveness (VE) is measured by calculating the risk of disease among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and determining the percentage reduction in risk of disease among vaccinated individuals relative to unvaccinated individuals. The greater the percentage reduction of illness in the vaccinated group, the greater the vaccine efficacy/effectiveness.
  • The VEs of COVISHIELD™ and COVAXIN® are 54.9-82.4% and 81% depending upon the interval between two doses, respectively which means that though being vaccinated, the individual is still susceptible to infection. In other words, the vaccine had failed to give 100% protection. Even asymptomatic infection will be considered as vaccine failure.

No vaccine can be or is 100% effective.  Any effectivity above 60% is considered good enough. And if any vaccine is protecting > 90% from getting a serious disease and > 99% from death, it has to be called a highly effective one!!

  • The failure rate of COVID-19 vaccines, even though ranges from 19-45%, it is claimed to be more than 90% effective in preventing serious disease and 99-100% effective in preventing deaths according to anecdotal unconfirmed reports about death in fully vaccinated people.
  • Paradoxically the failure of COVID-19 vaccines against asymptomatic infection is high enough. In fact, it only means that this population would have progressed to symptomatic or more severe disease otherwise.
  • There are two types of vaccine failures – Primary and Secondary.
  • Primary vaccine failure means non-development of immune response in the subject to whom it is administered for various reasons. The reasons may be extrinsic or intrinsic.
    • Extrinsic reasons like -non-maintenance of cold chain during transport and storage, Improper handling during vaccination, Improper technique of administration, Improper dosing or dosing errors, Improper scheduling, and many others. These are and should be preventable at least to a certain extent by appropriate training on all relevant fronts.
    • Intrinsic reasons are subject related – An immunocompromised state, On steroids or immunosuppressants, Cross reactivities, etc.  Some of these may be modifiable to some extent.
  • Secondary vaccine failure means the development of infection despite an immune response or a Breakthrough Infection. The reasons can be the development of very low antibodies and antibodies waning over time, and a very low cell-mediated response as well. Mutant strains can be immune evasive and cause infection despite being armed with antibodies. This is to be considered a very important cause of vaccine failure in the present scenario.
  • It may be extremely difficult to assess the reason for vaccine failure and will involve many technicalities and investigations pertaining right from manufacturing- storage-transportation, to measuring humoral and cell-mediated immune responses in the failed subjects.

What to infer?

  • The failure rates of existing covid-19 vaccines in preventing death and serious disease are very low. Because fully vaccinated people usually have some immunity against the disease, breakthrough cases usually have either no symptoms or mild symptoms.  A breakthrough case occurs when an individual has had a lower immune response from the vaccine. No vaccine is 100 percent effective.
  • Vaccine failures should be thoroughly studied.
  • A person not developing a good immune response as judged by measuring antibodies may be still protected by virtue of cell mediated immunity.
  • A person developing sky high antibodies may be still vulnerable if attacked by immune evading mutant strain.
  • COVID-19 Breakthrough Case Investigations and Reporting – Vaccine breakthrough case definition (CDC):
    • A person who has SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen detected on a respiratory specimen collected ≥14 days after completing the primary series of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized COVID-19 vaccine.
    • As FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are administered more broadly, it will be important to monitor breakthrough cases to identify unexpected trends or clustering in the patients (i.e., demographics, geography, underlying medical conditions, time since vaccine receipt, and clinical severity), the administered vaccine (i.e., type, dosing, lot, storage, and handling), or infecting virus (i.e., variant strains and mutations).

11. Future vaccines(36,37)

Several vaccine candidates which are in different stages of trials in India to test safety and efficacy include:

  • Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application for an investigational vaccine intended to prevent COVID-19 on 20 November 2020. The vaccine is based on a SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (S) antigen encoded by RNA formulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). In response to the current global health crisis, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (BNT162b2) development has ensured the highest compliance and quality standards while progressing expeditiously to address this urgent and unmet medical need.
  • ZyCov-Di, being developed by Ahmedabad-based Zydus-Cadila.
  • A vaccine being developed by Hyderabad-based Biological E, the first Indian private vaccine-making company, in collaboration with US-based Dynavax and Baylor College of Medicine.
  • Hyderabad-based Biological E to produce the vaccine developed by US firm Johnson & Johnson.
  • HGCO19, India’s first mRNA vaccine made by Pune-based Genova in collaboration with Seattle-based HDT Biotech Corporation, using bits of genetic code to cause an immune response.
  • A nasal vaccine by Bharat BioTech. The intranasal vaccine is different from the intramuscular vaccine Covaxin (BBV157) currently approved in India and abroad. The product on trial is BBV154, a novel adenovirus vectored, intranasal vaccine using Replication defective Chimpanzee Adeno Virus. One drop of vaccine in each of the nostrils is sufficient,” Single-Dose Vaccine. Bharat Biotech’s BBV154 is the first publicized attempt at getting an intranasal vaccine against coronavirus. Pre-clinical trials in Hamster mice have shown successful response. The company had tied up with the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis to develop an intranasal vaccine for COVID-19. Bharat Biotech had also been working with the Univ. of Wisconsin in developing another Nasal vaccine FluGen. Current trials are with the University of Washington. An intranasal vaccine stimulates a broad immune response – neutralizing IgG, mucosal IgA, and T cell responses. Immune responses at the site of infection (in the nasal mucosa) – essential for blocking both infection and transmission of COVID-19. The nasal route has excellent potential for vaccination due to the organized immune systems of the nasal mucosa.

Benefits of Intra Nasal Vaccines:

  • An intranasal vaccine stimulates a broad immune response – neutralizing IgG, mucosal IgA, and T cell responses.
  • Immune responses at the site of infection (in the nasal mucosa) – essential for blocking both infection and transmission of COVID-19.
  • The nasal route has excellent potential for vaccination due to the organized immune systems of the nasal mucosa.
Non-invasive, Needle-free.
Ease of administration – does not require trained health care workers.
Elimination of needle – associated risks (injuries and infections).
High compliance (Ideally suits for children’s and adults).
Scalable manufacturing – able to meet global demand.
Table 5: Benefits of Intra Nasal Vaccines.

  • A second vaccine being developed by Serum Institute of India and American vaccine development company Novavax. It is a recombinant spike protein sub unit nanoparticle vaccine with Matrix-M1 adjuvant. It has shown to stimulate Robust Neutralizing antibody development in subjects in successfully completed phase 3 trials. In India phase II and phase III bridging trials for the vaccine are going on Vaccine is likely to be launched by September 2021 in the country.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application for an investigational vaccine intended to prevent COVID-19 on 20 November 2020. The vaccine is based on a SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (S) antigen encoded by RNA formulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). In response to the current global health crisis, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (BNT162b2) development has ensured the highest compliance and quality standards while progressing expeditiously to address this urgent and unmet medical need.

12. Fifty Frequently asked questions(40)

(MoH-Ministry of health, India, Updated 25th March 21)

1. How will I know that I am eligible for vaccination?

  • From 01 may 2021 all adults above 18 years are eligible

2. Is it mandatory to get vaccinated? Any option to choose among vaccines in India?

  • Vaccination for COVID-19 is entirely voluntary. Kindly make an informed decision with the information that is provided to you. Vaccination can protect against development of severe disease and attenuate development of symptomatic infections.
  • The vaccine will be supplied to various parts of India as per availability and distribution plan, beneficiaries load and so at present the option of choice of vaccine is not available.

3. With Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA)/accelerated approval, will the vaccine be safe for users?

  • Yes.

4. What is benefit of taking COVID-19 vaccine?

  • COVID-19 vaccine will protect against severe disease and development of a symptomatic infection. It does not protect against transmission of disease and hence we request that people who are vaccinated, strictly comply with infection control precautions at all times i.e., universal masking and social distancing even after administration of the vaccine.

No Vaccine vs Vaccine comparison
Figure 12: No Vaccine vs Vaccine comparison.

5. What is the route of the vaccine? How many doses of vaccine to be taken? What is time interval?

  • The route of all available vaccines is intramuscular. Two doses of vaccine are required for development of a robust immune response.
  • The time interval between two doses of the Covishield vaccine has been extended from four-six weeks to four-eight weeks. The second dose of Covaxin can be taken four to six weeks after the first. (MoH)

6. Is the vaccine necessary for a COVID recovered person?

  • Yes, the duration of immunity acquired after a natural infection to SARS- CoV2 is believed to be 3-6 months only based on the presence of neutralizing antibodies. Vaccine may be taken 1-3 months after recovery.

7. Can a person with recent/current COVID-19 infection be vaccinated?

  • I received the First Dose of the Vaccine and then tested COVID-19 Positive in between the two doses? Can I take the second dose? Answer: You can receive the second dose three months after testing positive. (MoH)
  • Current evidence suggests reinfection is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection, and thus, persons with documented acute infection in the preceding 90 days may defer vaccination until the end of this period, if desired.

8. As per MoH, India – Is it necessary for a COVID-19 recovered person to take the vaccine? And if I had COVID-19 infection and was treated, why should I receive the vaccine?

  • Yes, it is advisable to receive complete schedule of COVID-19 vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with COVID-19. This will help in developing a strong immune response against the disease. Development of immunity or duration of protection after COVID-19 exposure is not established therefore it is recommended to receive vaccine even after COVID-19 infection. Wait for 4-8 weeks after recovery from COVID symptoms before getting the vaccine.

9. Are there any side effects of this vaccine? (MoH)

  • Covishield®: Some mild symptoms may occur like injection site tenderness, injection site pain, headache, fatigue, myalgia, malaise, pyrexia, chills and arthralgia, nausea. Very rare events of demyelinating disorders have been reported following vaccination with this vaccine but without the causal relationship establishment.
  • Covaxin®: Some mild symptoms AEFIs may occur like injection site pain, headache, fatigue, fever, body ache, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, dizziness-giddiness, tremor, sweating, cold, cough and injection site swelling. No other vaccine-related serious adverse effects have been reported.

10. Can persons with allergic reactions/history of anaphylaxis safely be vaccinated?

  • If history of anaphylaxis/allergic reactions to a component of the vaccine is known, then vaccine is contraindicated. Any person with history of allergic reactions and anaphylaxis to a previous vaccine is required to report the same before the administration of vaccine.
  • All staff receiving the vaccine will be observed for a period of 30 minutes after administration of vaccine. A history of allergies to food, pet, insect, oral medications or environmental agents are not considered as contraindication/does not need additional precautions.

11. Out of the multiple vaccines available, how is one or more vaccine chosen for administration?

  • The safety and efficacy data from clinical trials of vaccine candidates are examined by Drug Regulator of our country before granting the license for the same. Hence, all the COVID-19 vaccines that receive license will have comparable safety and efficacy. However, it must be ensured that the entire schedule of vaccination is completed by only one type of vaccine as different COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable. (MoH)

12. How will I know about efficacy and safety of the vaccine administered?

  • The two vaccines being administered by the government are AstraZeneca- SII Covishield or Bharat Biotech Covaxin. The safety and efficacy are now visible by experience of mass vaccination and by post vaccination Covid cases are mild in nature at large.

13. Can I get COVID-19 because of vaccination?

  • No, all COVID 19 vaccines either use inactivated virus, or parts/gene of the virus. Hence infection will not occur due to vaccination.

14. How long will the vaccine protect from an infection?

  • The data on duration of protection is not yet available. It is expected to protect for at least 6 months or possibly even longer. However, ongoing trials may provide efficacy data in 1-2 years.

15. Is it mandatory to follow the safety precautions (masking, hand hygiene, physical distancing) after receiving COVID19 vaccine?

  • Even after vaccination, all standard precautions and transmission-based precautions i.e., appropriate usage of masks/respirators, hand hygiene; physical distancing should be STRICTLY followed.

16. The Health Ministry has advised caution in vaccinating persons with a history of bleeding or coagulation disorder. How does a person know if he/she has a coagulation disorder? What tests can be conducted?

  • There are a few bleeding disorders like ‘haemophilia’. These persons should take the vaccine under the supervision of their treating physician. Patients who are admitted in hospital or ICU and have bleeding problems should delay the vaccination till they are discharged. However, several people with heart and brain disorders are on blood thinners like aspirin and antiplatelet drugs. They can continue with their medicines and have the vaccines. For them, vaccines are absolutely safe. (MoH)

17. If I refuse the vaccine now, will I be able to take it later?

  • At the moment vaccine rollout is only through government sources. As and when the vaccines become available in the private market there may be an opportunity to avail these vaccines then.

18. Will the vaccine work against the newly identified UK strain known as 20B/501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01 or as B.1.1.7 and South African strain 20C/501Y.V2 or B.1.351 lineage?

  • It is believed that there are escape mutants in the South African strain which may reduce the vaccine efficacy; however, the expert recommendation is to go ahead with vaccination.
  • Even though the new UK variant has mutations to the spike protein that is targeted by the vaccines, available vaccine produces antibodies against many regions in the spike protein. At present preliminary communication indicates that this vaccine will provide protection.
  • Covaxin: “Twelve isolates of VUI lineage B.1.617 were propagated in VeroCCL81 cells and characterized. Convalescent sera of the COVID-19 cases and recipients of BBV152 (Covaxin) were able to neutralize VUI B.1.617.” (bioRxiv preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.23.441101; this version posted April 23, 2021.)
  • Covishield: Covishield protects against B1617 variant as per a very preliminary study. Early results using in vitro neutralization assay show that both convalescent (prior infection) sera and Covishield vaccinated sera offer protection.

19. Can other vaccines (Eg: Influenza or Pneumococcal) be given along with COVID vaccine?

  • Inactivated or sub unit vaccines can be safely administered simultaneously or can be given after 2 weeks. If a live vaccine is required, it may be given simultaneously or 4 weeks after administration of this vaccine.

20. The health advisory also states that those with immunity issues should be cautious about taking the vaccine. What are the markers of ‘Immunity issues’?

  • Immune issues are of two types: one, immunosuppression due to any disease such as AIDS, and people on immunosuppressant drugs such as anti-cancer drugs, steroids, etc. Second, immunodeficiency in people who suffers from some defect in the body’s protective system such as congenital immunodeficiency.
  • Currently, available COVID-19 vaccines do not have any live virus and therefore individuals with immune issues can have the vaccine safely. But the vaccine may not be as effective in them. One should inform the vaccinator about the medicines they consume and if they are suffering from any known immune issues. The vaccinator should have a record of one’s medical condition. (MoH)

21. Can persons who have undergone convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies treatment for COVID19 infection take vaccination?

  • Persons previously treated for COVID-19 infection with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma should have vaccination deferred for 90 days (from the date of treatment) to avoid potential interference with vaccine induced immune responses.

22. How safe are mRNA vaccines?

  • mRNA vaccines do not have a risk of modifying the vaccine recipient’s genetic makeup, which could theoretically happen with a DNA vaccine. After injection, mRNA vaccines penetrate and introduce an mRNA sequence into host (the vaccine) immune cell cytoplasm that instructs the cell to synthesize a target protein (not a whole virus) for the immune system to react to.
  • For COVID-19 vaccines, the spike protein is then excreted locally from the cell or presented directly on the cell surface to other mobile immune cells to stimulate a SARS-CoV-2 specific immune response. The cells penetrated by the vaccine mRNA serve as passive protein factories. The mRNA produces protein and then degrades after a few days (maximum) because RNA is very unstable. No effect on host DNA is possible because DNA is located in the nucleus and is protected.

23. Will I need third Booster Dose?

  • Pfizer and Moderna recently announced that people who have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines will probably need a booster shot this year and might need an annual shot thereafter.
  • An expert panel of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had permitted Bharat Biotech to give a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin to a few volunteers in its clinical trials.
  • Currently, people eligible for inoculation in the country are being administered Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Covaxin. Both vaccines are being given in two doses in a gap of up to eight weeks.
  • Bharat Biotech has proposed a booster dose after six months of the second dose.
  • Regarding applicability and effectiveness of a third dose, especially in view of the raging second COVID-19 wave, experts opine that third booster dose needs more studies to determine if it will help in fighting infections more effectively.

24. If one is taking medicines for illnesses like Cancer, Diabetes, Hypertension etc, can s/he take the COVID-19 vaccine and/or If I suffer from HTN/DM/CKD/heart disease/lipid disorders etc., can I safely take this vaccine?

  • Yes, persons with one or more of these comorbid conditions are considered among the high-risk category. They need to get COVID-19 vaccination. Overall, the vaccine is safe and efficacious in adults with comorbidity. The maximum benefit of getting the COVID-19 vaccine is for those who have such co-morbidities.

25. Why vaccination is not provided to children who are usual target?

  • COVID-19 affects all age groups; however, morbidity & mortality is several times higher in adults particularly in those above the age of 50 years. Children have either asymptomatic or mild infection. The general practice is to first evaluate any new vaccine in older population and then age reduction is done to assess the safety and effectiveness in paediatric population. The currently available vaccines have not been evaluated in children so far. There are some clinical trials now underway to test the effectiveness and safety of the COVID 19 vaccines in children. (ICMR).

26. Is Covishield® same as the vaccine been given in UK by Astra Zeneca?

  • Yes, Covishield® vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is based on the same patent technology as the Astra Zeneca vaccine.

27. Developing a vaccine takes years. But this time our scientists have developed a vaccine against the novel corona virus in such a short time. How was this possible?

  • Developing a vaccine generally involves years of research. First, we need a vaccine candidate that is evaluated in animals for its safety and efficacy. After a vaccine candidate passes a preclinical trial, it enters the clinical trial phase. While scientists have worked around the clock in the laboratory, even regulatory approvals which used to take several months have been fast tracked. It helped eliminate all the time lapses between the pre-clinical and clinical trial stages. Earlier, the vaccine development involved a series of steps, but in the case of the coronavirus vaccine, the scientists and regulators worked in tandem, accelerating the whole process without compromises on any protocols and any step. (ICMR)

28. Does vaccination protect me against newer strains / mutated virus of SARS-CoV2?

  • The body responds to vaccination by making more than one type of antibodies to virus parts including spike protein. Therefore, all vaccines are expected to provide reasonable amount of protection against the mutated virus also. Based on the available data the mutations as reported are unlikely to make the vaccine ineffective.

29. Which vaccine is better between Covisheild and Covaxin

  • There is no head-to-head comparison done between the two vaccines being used in India so one cannot choose one over the another. Both would work fine in preventing the infection as well as prevent a person from going into severe state of the disease. As a long-term effect, it would be preventing death for elderly people or those who have co-morbidities. Both have been shown in preliminary studies to be effective against mutant strains.

30. In how many days will the vaccination create an adequate immune response and protection?

  • Adequate immune response takes 2-3 weeks after completion of entire vaccination schedule i.e., after the second dose of COVISHIELD® and COVAXIN®.

31. Does this vaccine provide herd immunity?

  • When an increasing number of people get vaccinated in the community, indirect protection through herd immunity develops. The percentage of people who need to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. For example, its 95% for measles, however the proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known.

32. Which drug should be taken to minimize the adverse effects of this vaccine?

  • In case of minor adverse effects such as injection site pain, tenderness, malaise, pyrexia, etc., paracetamol may be used to alleviate the symptoms.

33. Should you avoid alcohol after receiving the COVID19 Vaccine?

  • As per experts, there is no evidence of alcohol impairing the effectiveness of the vaccine. Moderate to heavy alcohol intake suppresses immunity, so it is suggested to avoid heavy intake.

34. Claims on social media suggested that covid19 vaccine could affect female fertility. Is it true?

  • Rumours or social media posts suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines could cause infertility are not true and totally baseless. None of the available vaccines affects fertility. Vaccines are authorized for use only after their safety and efficacy is assured.

35. What is the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine if I only receive one dose of a two-dose series?(41)

  • There is very limited data on the efficacy of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines when only one dose is given. Pfizer has indicated that the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine after one dose is at least Updated 4/22/2021 52%. Moderna has noted 80.2% efficacy after one dose.
  • Covaxin and Covishield have been found to provide reasonable protective effect even after first dose.
  • For best protection, it is recommended that individuals receive two doses.

36. The administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was paused in the United States. What does this mean?(41)

  • On April 13,2021, the FDA and CDC recommended a pause in the administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. As of April 13th, there were over 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine administered and reported in the U.S. The CDC and FDA had received six reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals who had received the vaccine. (Breakdown: that means the blood clot is extremely rare and currently estimated to occur at a rate of 1 event per 1.13 million doses administered.) The type of blood clot is called a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), and it was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred in women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6-13 days after vaccination. Of these cases, one has died.

37. Is it true that people in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials died?(41)

  • According to data released by COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, clinical trial participants did pass away during the safety monitoring period following vaccination. Deaths occurred in participants in the vaccinated and the unvaccinated groups. However, it is important to note that the deaths that occurred in the vaccinated group were not caused by the vaccination.

38. Do COVID-19 vaccines cause people to faint?(41)

  • Fainting, also called syncope, is a common event surrounding vaccination. It is not caused by a vaccination itself; fainting is thought to be caused by the vaccination process (ex. anxiety associated with vaccination).
  • Fainting is usually not serious and has no long-lasting effects. Because fainting is a common occurrence for vaccinated individuals, we expect to hear reports of individuals who faint when they receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Fainting is not a sign of a vaccine reaction. To help minimize the risks associated with fainting, everyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine is recommended to be monitored for 15 minutes following vaccination.

39. Will getting the COVID-19 vaccine affect a woman’s menstrual cycle?(41)

  • There have been anecdotal reports of menstruation changes following COVID-19 vaccination, but there is currently no scientific evidence to say the vaccine itself causes a change in menstruation patterns. Changes in menstruation following vaccination could be linked to the body’s stress response to the immunization or the pandemic; the changes could also be a coincidence. Researchers are currently exploring this question in further detail. It is also not possible for the vaccination of one woman to affect the menstrual cycle of another woman. Additionally, the menstrual cycle of one woman cannot affect the menstrual cycle of another.

40. Can I take pain medicine (e.g. paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) to manage the side effects of COVID-19 vaccination?(41)

  • The CDC has stated that patients can take pain medication (e.g. non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or acetaminophen) after their vaccination if they feel side effects (e.g. pain, headache, or fever that cannot be tolerated). There has been debate on whether or not taking pain medication prior to vaccination may dampen an individual’s immune response to the vaccine. Until we know more, it is not recommended for individuals to take pain medication in anticipation of potential side effects prior to their vaccine. If you have to take pain medication to alleviate side effects, it is advised for you to take it after you have been vaccinated.

41. Should people who are currently in quarantine present for vaccination?

  • No. People who are quarantined because of exposure to COVID-19 should wait to be vaccinated until their quarantine period has ended. This is to prevent spread to COVID-19 vaccinators. Your local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last based on local conditions and needs. Follow the recommendations of your local public health department if you need to quarantine. Options they will consider if you remain symptom free include stopping quarantine after: ● Day 10 without testing ● Day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later)

42. Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine even if I have had a positive antibody test?

  • Yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless whether you have received a positive antibody test or not. It is not recommended to conduct serologic testing to assess for prior infection for the purpose of vaccine decision-making.

43. Can pregnant women receive COVID-19 vaccine?(41)

  • Yes. Pregnant women may choose to be vaccinated and should discuss vaccination with their healthcare provider. They should weigh the risk of COVID-19 with the risks and benefits of vaccination; pregnant women are at an increased risk for severe COVID.
  • No pregnancy-related safety concerns have been detected via vaccine safety monitoring systems.
  • Considerations for vaccination include: 1) level of COVID-19 community transmission, 2) her personal risk of contracting COVID-19, 3) the risks of COVID-19 to her and potential risks to the fetus, 4) the efficacy of the vaccine, 5) the known side effects of the vaccine, 6) the lack of data about the vaccine during pregnancy.
  • In India as per MoH , studies are ongoing to prove the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women. Currently, avoid taking the vaccine. But if you accidentally receive the vaccine while pregnant, there is nothing to worry, and the pregnancy would be entirely safe.

44. What to do in Lactating Individuals?

  • ACOG recommends COVID-19 vaccines be offered to lactating individuals. While lactating, individuals were not included in most clinical trials, COVID-19 vaccines should not be withheld from lactating individuals who otherwise meet criteria for vaccination. Theoretical concerns regarding the safety of vaccinating lactating individuals do not outweigh the potential benefits of receiving the vaccine. There is no need to avoid initiation or discontinue breastfeeding in patients who receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

45. Can a COVID-19 vaccine cause you to test positive on COVID-19 viral tests?

  • No. COVID-19 viral tests will not show a positive result after receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine.

46. Will getting the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

  • No. Influenza viruses and coronaviruses are different, so the flu vaccine does not protect against coronavirus. This fall and winter, both COVID-19 and influenza will be circulating at the same time. Both are respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms. Influenza vaccination will be important to prevent illness this fall and the burden of influenza illness on health care providers. Additionally, influenza vaccine will prevent you from being sick and having to miss work or school. While it may seem like there is so much out of our control during this pandemic, getting vaccinated against influenza is within our control. This will protect not only those who receive flu vaccine, but also the community.

47. If Rabies vaccine is needed, should it be deferred?

  • Rabies vaccine schedule must not be altered for any reason.

48.  Can Vaccine be administered on the day of menstrual period?

There is no physiological, endocrine or immunological basis for such a consideration. Women should receive the vaccine on any day of the menstrual cycle, even during menstruation. Vaccine administration in the preconception period or for women undergoing fertility treatment including assisted reproduction Women should take the vaccine at any point of time before a pregnancy is confirmed as and when they have an opportunity to do so. There is no basis for deferring pregnancy or treatments for taking the vaccine. There is no evidence that vaccine administration affects fertility or miscarriage rates.

49. Can pregnant woman already infected with Covid in the past be vaccinated?

A pregnant woman faces greater risks in pregnancy if she is infected with COVID-19 as compared to a pregnant woman who is not infected or a non-pregnant woman who is infected. Therefore, vaccination is advisable even if there has been a past infection. As for the general population, vaccination should be deferred for 12 weeks from the infection or 4 to 8 weeks from recovery.

50. Is Pregnancy testing needed before administering the vaccine?

This is not necessary and creates a hurdle to vaccine acceptance. It is not recommended to test for pregnancy before vaccination. Vaccine administered inadvertently to a pregnant woman in early pregnancy. The vaccine does not have any known teratogenic effects as per available evidences. Women who are vaccinated in this manner should not be advised to terminate the pregnancy. They should be counseled that the risk of congenital anomalies does not rise above the baseline risk. However, at the present time, it would be prudent to defer vaccination in the first trimester as there is no substantial available data to establish absence of teratogenicity.

13. Supplementary information

Covat Study(38,39)

  • This study evaluated the humoral antibody response of two COVID-19 vaccines COVISHIELD™ and COVAXIN™ in Indian healthcare workers.
  • Both vaccines showed seropositivity to anti-spike antibodies, 21 days or more after the first dose.
  • Responder rates were higher in Covishield recipient compared to Covaxin in propensity-matched cohorts.
  • Past COVID-19 infection, presence of comorbidities, and vaccine type received were independent predictors of antibody response after the first dose.
  • The study concludes, COVISHIELD™ and COVAXIN™, both elicited immune responses, seropositivity rates to anti-spike antibodies were significantly higher in Covishield recipient compared to Covaxin after the first dose. Ongoing COVAT study will further enlighten the immune response between two vaccines after the second dose.

Myths and facts about covid-19 vaccine(34)

The several myths and facts about the COVID-19 vaccine are discussed below.

Myth: There is no need for me to wear a mask since I have been vaccinated.

Fact: The COVID-19 vaccine may provide some protection from catching the infection, but until more substantial data supporting the long-term safety and efficacy of this vaccine is available it is recommended to continue with the practices like wearing a mask, hand washing, and proper social distancing every time you step out of the house.

Myth: I do not need to take the vaccine as I already had COVID-19 in the recent past.

Fact: It is true that once infected, the body produces immunity against viruses, but we do not have enough evidence that this type of natural immunity would be long-lasting enough. There could still be high chances of catching the infection again as it takes some time for the body to produce an effective immune response against any potential coronavirus re-infection.

Myth: COVID 19 vaccines cause severe side effects.

Fact: There can be some short-term, mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve on their own and if needed, you may be advised to take some prescribed medication to manage them. These side effects can include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, chills, muscle pain, or fever which could last for a day or two. These side effects are indicators that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. You can always contact your physician or medical staff for guidance.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccines were developed in a very short span of time to be safe.

Fact: It is a known fact that the development of vaccines takes years of research. The scientific community the world over was able to bring out the COVID-19 vaccines so quickly because of the following aspects.

Many years of research on the technology required to design flu-like vaccines. Fast track regulatory approvals based on scientific data presented by the drug manufacturers and researchers. Dedicated and continuous research and development activities to find faster ways to manufacture vaccines. Huge funding support helped in the conduction of multiple trials parallelly world over.

SARS-CoV 2 is quite similar when compared to SARS-1, and hence the information from research conducted on SARS-1 and other similar flu viruses was a good base for the development of the SARS-CoV 2 vaccine. The entire scientific and healthcare community has worked tirelessly with the support of the governments to produce these COVID-19 vaccines in such a short time. We are yet to observe and understand the long-term effects of this vaccine, however, it has proven to improve the body’s ability to fight the infection caused by this virus.

Myth: One dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is enough to protect against a coronavirus infection.

Fact: When the first dose of vaccine is administered, it activates two important types of white blood cells. It helps in producing antibodies against this virus however, this immunity is short-lived.   The booster dose or second dose is a way of exposing the body to the antigens a second time which re-activates the immune system and provides a stronger immune response. When the same vaccine is introduced into the body again, the body produces antibodies from the B cell memory and gives a better immune response. Hence for having better immunity to fight the coronavirus infection, it is strongly recommended to take both doses of the vaccine as per the schedule given by the hospital/medical staff. 

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are not effective against the new variants.

Fact: Advanced research on these vaccines is already going on and any changes in response to these vaccines are being monitored in detail by the healthcare providers. The virus tends to mutate quickly hence, like the vaccine for influenza or the common cold, the COVID-19 vaccine also could be modified after observing the development of variants annually. The vaccine can be adjusted to provide immunity against newer strains of the virus. However, while the vaccine is still available, it is in the best interest of each citizen to get vaccinated and be protected.

Myth: Indian vaccines are not as effective as their foreign counterparts

Fact: COVID-19 vaccine developed and marketed in India is as effective and safe as vaccines available in any other part of the world. The vaccine has been approved for use after a substantial amount of research on similar SARS-1 and other viruses pre-clinically as well as after conducting clinical trials on humans.

Myth: COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility, and one should not take it if one wants to conceive.

Fact: According to the National Institute of Immunology, Delhi these false claims were made by some studies based on studies conducted on anti-fertility vaccines. However, there is currently no reported evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any hindrance to conception or development of the placenta. Besides, there is no concrete evidence that infertility is a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines. If you are trying to conceive now or want to conceive in the future, you may receive a COVID-19 vaccine if available to you after consulting your gynecologists. Research on the effects of taking a vaccine is a continuous process and researchers are gathering the data on the effects of COVID-19 vaccines on all populations including special populations. The long-term effects of this vaccine cannot be ascertained at this point of time.

Myth: Getting the COVID-19 vaccine gives you COVID-19.

Fact: According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID 19 vaccine does not contain any live virus hence it cannot cause COVID 19 infection in a person. The body takes its own time to develop immunity even in people who have taken all doses of the vaccine. Hence it is still possible to catch the infection immediately after taking the vaccine. Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and sanitizing hands is the best precaution against getting infected.

Myth: The COVID-19 vaccine enters your cells and changes your DNA.

Fact: The COVID-19 vaccine is based on introducing mRNA into the body which gives the instructions to the body’s immune system to produce a certain kind of protein. These prompt the body to respond by producing specific kind of antibodies against the COVID-19 virus. DNA of a cell is in the nucleus of the cell and this part of the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell. Hence it cannot affect the DNA of a person who is given the COVID-19 vaccine.

Myth: COVID-19 vaccine should not be taken by people suffering from HIV.

Fact: According to WHO, many of the trials conducted on the COVID-19 vaccine involved a small number of HIV patients. Although there is limited available data, scientific literature indicates that the current WHO-recommended COVID-19 vaccine is safe to be administered in patients suffering from HIV. The currently available vaccine does not contain any live virus hence there is no reported evidence that it can affect immune-compromised patients.

Recommendations for use of pfizer-biontech and moderna Covid-19 vaccines in pregnant and lactating women

Figure 13: Covid-19 vaccination – Pregnant and Lactating Women

CDC summary document for interim clinical considerations

CDC Summary
Figure 14: CDC summary.

Indian vaccination completion certificate

Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate
Figure 15: Vaccination Certificate.

Vaccine hesitancy table

Vaccine Hesitancy Table
Table 6: Vaccine Hesitancy.

Update on injection technique is an advisory

  • If the tip of the needle doesn’t reach deep enough in the muscle or if it accidentally hits a small blood vessel, the vaccine can be directly injected into the bloodstream: an extremely rare possibility.
  • This can happen when the skin is pinched up by an inadequately trained health worker. (IM injections are meant to be given without pinching up the skin so that the needle tip reaches the muscle).
  • When skin is pinched up, the needle tip reaches only the subcutaneous tissue.
  • When that happens, not only is the vaccine not absorbed properly because of the fatty layer, but rarely it can hit one of the blood vessels that travel through this layer (subcutaneous tissue is marked in yellow in my diagram; it is located between skin and muscle). This layer contains a network of blood vessels.
  • One more problem is that people have stopped aspirating (pulling back the plunger of the syringe) to check if they hit a blood vessel while giving IM injections.
  • These are recent “technique updates” it seems. I remember aspiration being standard practice before giving intramuscular injection during my training days.
  • This means that in the rarest of the rare event of the needle tip entering a tiny blood vessel, the vaccine will directly enter the bloodstream and potentially cause an acute reaction. (This was originally proposed by Prof. Neils Høiby from Dept. of Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark).

1. Do not pinch skin up. Instead, gently stretch the skin flat before plunging the needle at 90 degrees.
2. The needle tip needs to be in muscle, not subcutaneous tissue. It needs to be of the right length.
3. Aspirate gently before injecting: make sure you haven’t hit a blood vessel.
Table 7: Correct technique for IM injection for all COVID-19 vaccines.

*This advisory has been officially issued by SSI Staten’s Serum Institute of Denmark, for ALL COVID-19 VACCINES.

IM injection technique – Covid-19
Figure 16: IM injection technique – Covid-19.

Vaccination below 18 years

Table 8: Vaccination below 18 years.

The Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies Of India Position Statement on Covid Vaccination

FOGSI Position Statement on Covid Vaccination for Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
1. FOGSI acknowledges that there is limited data available on the use of COVID vaccines in pregnancy, especially of the vaccines that are available in India.
2. Data from basic science and animal studies have not shown any teratogenic or adverse fetal or neonatal effects of the vaccine.
3. As matters stand in our country, every individual need protection from the surging COVID-19 infections. We are in the midst of the second wave. There is a need to prevent further waves and the vaccine is the best and long-term solution to this. This protection should extend to pregnant and lactating women.
4. The very real benefits of vaccinating pregnant and lactating women seem to far outweigh any theoretical and remote risks of vaccination. Lactating women should also be considered as COVID vaccine candidates as there are no known adverse effects on the neonate who is breastfeeding. In fact, there is a passage of protective antibodies to the child, which may be a beneficial effect. The method of administering and monitoring the vaccine and the schedule of vaccination should be the same for pregnant and lactating women as for the general population.
5. Women should be counseled and empowered to make their own decision supported by caregivers. There should not be any discrimination between women who accept or refuse the vaccine as and when it is possible to administer it in our country to pregnant and lactating women. It is recommended that obstetricians and gynaecologists and women’s health care providers should be allowed to administer the COVID vaccines in pregnant & breastfeeding women with preparations to manage adverse events.
Table 9: FOGSI Position Statement.

14. References

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