Clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine are yet to be conducted
- COVID-19 vaccine helps in developing a strong immune response
- It has been found to be safe in elderly and people above the age of 18
- Guidelines for vaccinating children are yet to be released
Should you get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have tested positive for the infection? What are the reasons for children under the age of 16 to now get vaccinated? Answering several such questions about the COVID-19 vaccine is Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization (WHO). So far, it is known that most people who have COVID-19 do develop an immune response. But there is a subgroup of people, particularly those who have had very mild infection and sometimes they are asymptomatic, which means that they get no symptoms.
"People with asymptomatic infection have a less strong immune response as compared to those who have been seriously ill and get a good antibody response. So, in general, we are now recommending that people should get a COVID-19 vaccine if they fall into that priority group, regardless of the fact they have had a previous infection or not," informs Dr Swaminathan in the WHO's recent IGTV.
COVID-19 vaccine: Important FAQs answered by expert
The immune system recognises the same antigen, the same protein. And thus even if you have had an infection previously and you now get a vaccine, it acts like a booster, says Dr Swaminathan. "The vaccine boosts that immune response - the antibody response as well as the T cell response. By getting a vaccine, you are assured that you have a good immune response that is going to last for long time," she explains.
Having said that, how long that immunity is going to last is something that researchers are still looking into. She recommends that you should get a vaccine, whether or not you've had a previous infection.
Also read: COVID-19 Vaccine: Experts Tell What You Need To Do After Getting The Vaccine
Why should children under the age of 16 note get COVID-19 vaccine?
Whenever new drugs or vaccines are developed, they go through clinical trials. They are tested in people with the disease in order to make sure they are both safe and effective.
"The testing usually starts in adults as in case there is an unexpected side effect that scientists are still not aware of, children should not be the first ones to be exposed. COVID-19 vaccines developed so far have been tested in people above the age of 18 and in one case 16 years. Data is currently available for this population. This is the population for which vaccines are recommended," says Dr Swaminathan.
Furthermore, COVID-19 has been found to be a more serious disease in older people. Developers of the vaccine have ensured that the elderly and people with underlying diseases like hypertension, diabetes and heart disease have been included in the clinical trials.
"In these groups, we know that the vaccine works and is safe. Clinical trials of the vaccine among children are going to start soon. We will get more data in children in the coming months," she adds.
Also, global supplies of the vaccine are limited. They are being targeted to those at highest risk initially. As of now, vaccines are for people above the age of 18 years.Till the time there's ability of data among children, more vaccines will be circulated. Guidelines for vaccination in children will then be released, Dr Swaminathan informs.
COVID-19 vaccine trials are yet to be conducted in children under the age of 16
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Also read: COVID-19 Symptoms In Children: Learn How Coronavirus And Its New Variants Affect Children
Side effects of vaccine and when you should call your doctor after getting the vaccine
When you go to a clinic to get COVID-19 vaccine, you will be asked to wait for a few days once you are vaccinated. This is because the health care providers want to see if there's an allergic reaction (which is very rare) or other side effects like pain, soreness, redness or swelling in the arm at the injection site, low grade fever, body ache, headache or general feeling or not being well.
"It is expected to get these side effects because the body's immune response reacts to the antigen that is being put into the body, and the immune system is gearing up to fight. These side effects are likely to last two to three days and then one feels fine," Dr Swaminathan asserts.
After the first three or four days, if these symptoms are persistent or if you develop anything unusual symptoms that you don't normally have, you may need to visit a doctor or the same place where you got the vaccine.
"About 100 million vaccine doses have been deployed worldwide in the last two months. So far, there have been no warning signs or red flags," says Dr Swaminathan on a positive note.
Also read: What Should You Do When COVID-19 Spreads To The Lungs? Know From Our Expert
(Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at World Health Organization)
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.