The National COVID Vaccination Program is based upon epidemiological evidence and as per the WHO guidelines. The vaccination program incorporates inputs and recommendations from experts in the field of immunisation, public health, disease control and biotechnology. It is implemented through meticulous planning and efficient participation of States, Union territories and public participation at large.
National Vaccination Guidelines
COVID vaccination in the country commenced from 16th January to 30th April 2021, under the National Vaccination Program for COVID with vaccination of health care
workers. This schedule was gradually expanded to include vaccination of front-line workers, citizens more than 60 years of age, citizens more than. The vaccine doses are provided free of cost by the Government of India to the States and Union territories. Under the purview of MOH &FW (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare), the Government of India revised the guidelines for vaccination were made effective from 1st May 2021. The salient feature of the revised guidelines was to include citizens more than 45 years of age, citizens whose second dose has become due and citizens 18 years and above. Finally, the vaccination guidelines were revised from 3rd January 2022 to vaccinate children in the age group of 15-18 years and to vaccinate front-line workers who have received two doses, with the third dose of COVID-19 vaccine as a booster.
Vaccines used in the National Vaccination Program
Two vaccines were granted emergency use authorisation by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in India, Covishield® (AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin® (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited). Covishield is composed of inactivated adenovirus with segments of Coronavirus. The composition of Covaxin includes inactivated Coronavirus. Both vaccines are equally efficient in preventing the infection as well as preventing an individual from developing severe disease. The time span between two doses of the shield vaccine has been extended from four-eight weeks to 12-16 weeks. Covaxin’s second dose can be taken four to six weeks after the first.
The COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in India will be as effective as any vaccine developed by other countries. Vaccine trials are conducted at various phases to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Who should not be vaccinated?
- Individuals with a history of allergic reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine or allergic reaction to vaccines or injectable therapies, drugs or food items.
- Individuals having active symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection should not be vaccinated.
- Individuals who have been given anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, and any individual who is unwell and hospitalised (with or without intensive care).
The Health Ministry has advised caution while vaccinating individuals with a history of bleeding or coagulation disorder. These persons should take the vaccine only under the supervision of their treating physician. The health advisory also states that individuals with an immune deficiency should be cautious about taking the vaccine and consult a doctor before vaccination.
What to expect after vaccination?
After vaccination, the individual responds by manufacturing more than a single type of protective antibody to virus parts, including spike protein. Therefore, vaccines provide some degree of protection against the mutated virus also. Adequate protection develops in about two to three weeks (21 days) after the second dose of COVISHIELD® and COVAXIN®. However, it remains mandatory to wear a mask and follow social distancing and other appropriate measures at the workplace as well as in the community after vaccination.