Vaccine safe, no need to worry: PGI director

The Tribune Interview: Dr Jagat Ram, PGI director

Chandigarh is all set to inoculate over 28,000 health workers with the Covid-19 vaccine from January 16. The city received 12,000 doses of Covishield on Tuesday, which has been co-developed by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the Serum Institute of India. Chandigarh Tribune correspondent interviewed Dr Jagat Ram, Director of the PGI, to allay the fears of the people regarding the vaccine.

  • There are concerns over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines among local health workers, given that the clinical trials and bridging study for the approved vaccines are still underway in the country. Can this lead to “vaccine hesitancy”?

I don’t think there should be any safety concern regarding both vaccines – Covishield and Covaxin. Both vaccines were found safe at the trial sites. The study to evaluate efficacy of the vaccines is underway. However, the efficacy is not the chief concern during its emergency use. Efficacy, nevertheless, plays an important role because ultimately we want to see how much is the antibody response against the infection. Covishield efficacy has been found between 62 per cent and 90 per cent, depending on single dose or double dose regimens.

  • What are the arrangements for the Covid-19 vaccination at the PGI, including the procurement of the vaccine as only 12,000 doses have been received and the number of health workers to be vaccinated is large in the city?

At the PGI itself, there are 12,000 health workers and we will need 24,000 doses of Covishield. The Central Government has sent the first consignment to various states and will separately send it to central institutions such as AIIMS and the PGI. We are hopeful that we will receive adequate doses before January 16.

  • How is the PGI prepared to deal with the side effects, including allergic reactions to this vaccine at the vaccination sites?

There are minor side effects such as allergic reactions, fever and pain at the vaccination site. The beneficiary will be monitored for 30 to 45 minutes. We have made arrangements for admission of beneficiaries if symptoms aggravate.

  • Expectant mothers were excluded from the vaccine trials. Are such healthcare workers also being excluded from the vaccination?

No trial has been conducted on expectant mothers and there is no evidence how the vaccine will act on them. In the first phase, such women health workers will not be included in the vaccination drive. Though we have been able to save Covid positive expectant mothers and their babies as well at the institute.

  • If one is taking medicines for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, can he/she take the vaccine?

Definitely, such persons are at high risk of developing the infection and progressing towards severe illness. The vaccine will be safe for them and they are among the priority groups.

  • Can a person having the Covid-19 infection be vaccinated?

When the infection is active, they will not be given the vaccine. Administering the vaccine to Covid-19 patients will further aggravate their symptoms. They should wait for recovery.

  • Is it necessary for a recovered person to take the vaccine?

A recovered patient will have a good amount of antibodies for at least three months. With the passage of time, the antibodies will begin to decrease. Vaccination after three months of recovery can supplement the formation of antibodies.

  • How long can antibodies from the vaccine last?

The beneficiaries will have approximately six to nine months of antibody protection from the vaccine. However, one is advised to follow Covid appropriate behaviour to remain safe.

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