Indian American physician Dr. Shivaraj Nagalli addresses common concerns about the pandemic.
Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic first surfaced, more than three million people have died worldwide with the US (580,000) and India (280,000) accounting for the two top nations with the highest fatalities.
With numbers rising despite more than a year into this public health emergency, Covid-19 vaccines have been developed at record speed to prevent infection from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Corona Virus – 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative organism.
The vaccines currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use are Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2), Moderna (mRNA-1273), and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (Ad26.COV2.S).
AstraZeneca vaccine (ChAdOx1 nCov-19) is not yet approved in the United States but is used commonly elsewhere in European countries and as Covishield in India.
Even though Covid vaccination drives are the number one health priority right now, in most countries, there is also a certain sense of hesitancy amongst some people around the vaccines.
American Bazaar caught up with Dr. Shivaraj Nagalli, an Internal Medicine physician at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Alabaster, Alabama, who has been taking care of numerous Covid-19 patients since the start of the pandemic.
His patients have frequently asked him questions ranging from the safety to side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines and what one needs to do iii case one experience any side effects.
Due to the rapidity in their development, the safety profile of these vaccines is not yet fully established, Nagalli says.
“There is a lot of anxiety and apprehension among the community about these vaccines despite their high efficacy,” he says. “However, based on the available experience, literature, and evidence, these vaccines are not only effective but also safe.”
The American Bazaar asked Dr. Nagalli some of the commonest Covid vaccine questions that we have been getting from readers ever since the start of Covid 19 vaccinations.
Who can take the Covid-19 vaccine?
The US FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT162b2) vaccine for emergency use for individuals aged 16 years and older. It is a two-dose vaccine that needs to be given at least 3 weeks apart.
On May 10, 2021 it has extended its approval to adolescents aged 12 years through 15 years. Moderna (mRNA-1273) and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines are currently approved for emergency use for individuals aged 18 years and older.
Moderna vaccine is also a two-dose vaccine that is given a month apart whereas the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine is a single-dose vaccine.
What are the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine?
Pain and swelling at the injection site, glandular swelling in the arm-pits, painful movement of the arm on the side of inoculation, body pains, tiredness, joint pains, fever, chills, and headaches are some of the common side-effects that the patients may experience after getting a Covid-19 vaccine shot.
However, these should subside in a few days (1 to 3 days) from the time of inoculation. The most important step is to keep yourself adequately hydrated. If the pain and swelling are considerable, hot/cold packs can offer a soothing effect at the injection site.
But avoid restricting your arm and continue to use it for your daily routine activities. If any of these symptoms don’t reduce, one can consider taking a dose of two of Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen, provided there is no contraindication.
What if any are the symptoms one should watch for?
Most of the common side effects can be managed at home, however, patients should watch for the development of some of the rare side effects after the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), blood clots (more common at cerebral venous sinus thrombosis), and bleeding have been reported recently with the administration of Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines.
People who developed these were mostly women and were aged younger to middle-aged.
Patients should watch for severe, persistent, or worsening headaches, chest pain, abdominal pain or difficulty in breathing, severe back pain or extremity pain and swelling, development of red spots or bluish or purplish discoloration.
The presence of any of these or in combination requires urgent evaluation by a physician.
So is it okay to take the Covid-19 vaccine, despite recent warnings of blood clots?
Yes, absolutely. It is important to note that based on the available evidence, the blood clots and bleeding are rare and have been reported only after Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccine and not with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
Acquiring Covid-19 infection itself is a predisposing factor for the development of blood clots at a much significantly higher rate than one can get after the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The benefits of decreasing mortality and severity of the illness far outweigh the risks associated with these vaccines. These vaccines are both effective and life-saving.
If one was recently infected with a Covid-19 infection, can one take the vaccine? If so, when is it safe to take it?
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the Covid-19 vaccine to individuals who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Although rare, reinfection is a possibility and the duration of protection after recovering from illness is unknown.
The patients who have Covid-19 should wait for the recovery from their illness and have met CDC’s criteria to discontinue isolation: at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms of Covid-19 are improving infection.
Can pregnant or breastfeeding individuals take the Covid-19 vaccine?
Yes, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals can take either of the three approved Covid-19 vaccines.
Although the clinical trials are underway and the data is limited, the preliminary information from the CDC’s safety monitoring systems did not show any safety concerns.
CDC encourages pregnant patients to enroll in the V-safe Covid-19 Vaccine Pregnancy Registry. Once again, I would like to reiterate that these vaccines are pretty safe and effective.
Further, they offer benefits of decreasing the mortality and severity of the Covid-19, if at all acquired.
They can also help in preventing the transmission to individuals who are significantly immunocompromised and cannot develop antibodies. Hence get vaccinated, help in building herd immunity, and save lives!
Indian American researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee endorses covid vaccines (December 24, 2020)