The knock of an effective COVID-19 vaccine is a huge breakthrough in medical history amid the disruptions caused by the pandemic. While India gears up to vaccinate 3 crore frontline and healthcare workers in the first phase, let’s answer some of the queries about COVID-19 vaccination that you might have.
About registration and eligibility
Q.1. How do I know whether I’m eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
– In the initial phase the COVID-19 vaccine will be provided to the priority, high-risk group which includes 3 crore healthcare and frontline workers.
– People aged over 50 years and under-50 with comorbidities (27 crore people) may be vaccinated, depending on vaccine availability.  
Eligible people will receive an SMS on their registered mobile number, regarding the Health Facility where the vaccination will be provided and the scheduled time for the same. An online registration of the beneficiary is mandatory for getting COVID-19 vaccine.
Q.2. How can elderly and people with comorbid conditions register for the COVID-19 vaccine?
– In the first phase of vaccination drive, beginning on 16th January 2021, only healthcare and frontline workers will be vaccinated.
– Second high-risk groups, including people above 50 years of age or having coexisting health conditions would need to self-register themselves on CoWIN, a govt-run app developed for managing the entire vaccination drive
– Online registration on CoWin will require a valid photo id. Following registration, you will receive SMS on your registered mobile number – first when your registration gets confirmed. Later the registered person will be informed around the date, time and place of vaccination.
– You would have to wait for the official announcement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) around the public launch of CoWIN. 
– Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health’s official Twitter account cautioned, “Some apps named ‘#CoWIN’ apparently created by unscrupulous elements to sound similar to the upcoming official platform of the Government, are on App stores. DO NOT download or share personal information on these. #MoHFW official platform will adequately publicise its launch.”
Q.3. Which documents do I need to register?
The eligible beneficiary can present any of the following identification proofs  :
– Aadhar Card
– Driving License
– Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour
– Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) Job Card
– Official identity cards issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs
– PAN Card
– Passbooks issued by Bank/Post Office
– Pension Document
– Service Identity Card with photograph issued to employees by Central/State Govt./PSUs/Public Limited Companies
– Voter ID
– Smart card issued by RGI under NPR
NOTE: Beneficiaries need to carry the photo identity card while visiting the health facility to get vaccinated. Without it, the vaccination will not be administered.
Q.4. Can the COVID-19 vaccine be taken through private players?
As of now, vaccine administration is being handled by the government.
About efficacy and safety
Q.5. Does the vaccine have any side effects?
– As is true for other vaccines, the common side effects in some individuals could be mild fever, pain, etc. at the site of injection .
– However, not all people will experience the side effects .
– Also, states have been instructed to prepare in advance for dealing with any COVID-19 vaccine-related side effects .
Q.6. Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?
No, COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. However, it is advisable to receive the complete schedule (two doses) of the vaccine. This will protect you against the virus and help limit the spread of the virus. 
Q.7. Are there any contraindications for the COVID-19 vaccine?
You must delay your vaccination for 4-8 weeks after recovery if you :
– Have active symptoms of COVID-19 infection
– Have been given plasma therapy for COVID-19.
– Are or were acutely unwell or hospitalized due to any illness.
Q.8. Do COVID recovered patients need the vaccine too?
Yes, it is best if everyone receives the complete dose of the vaccine irrespective of whether they’ve been previously infected or not. Getting the vaccine will help strengthen the immune response against the coronavirus.
Q.9. How many doses of the vaccine would have to be taken by me and at what interval?
To complete the dose, the person needs to take two doses of the vaccine, 28 days apart.  
Q.10. When would antibodies develop? After taking the first dose, after taking the second dose, or much later?
Once the 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is received, it takes two weeks for the antibodies to kick in and get in action.  
Q.11. If one is taking medicines for illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, etc., can he/she take the COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. Persons with one or more of these comorbid conditions are considered a high-risk category. They need to get COVID-19 vaccination. 
Q.12. Do you need to discuss it with your doctor before you get COVID-19 vaccine?
Before deciding to take the vaccine, consult your doctor. Tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including :
– If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction after any drug, food, any vaccine, any ingredients of the vaccine
– If you have fever
– If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking a blood thinner
– You are pregnant or planning to get pregnant
– If you are breastfeeding
– If you have received another COVID-19 vaccine
Q.13. For how long will you be protected against COVID-19 after getting vaccinated?
The duration of protection with COVID-19 vaccine is currently unknown.
Q.14. Can I receive the COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines?
If required, COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines should be gapped at an interval of at least 14 days .
About development and logistics
Q.15. Which vaccines have been approved in India?
Currently, only 2 vaccines have been given emergency use authorization in India. One is Covishield which is being developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with UK’s Oxford University and Serum Institute of India (SII). The other is Covaxin which is being created by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research.
Q.16. What techniques are being used to develop COVID-19 vaccines?
COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed use either of the following techniques:
– Virus vaccine
These vaccines use a killed/inactivated or weakened form of the virus. While the killed/inactivated form is named the inactivated virus vaccine, weakened form is called live attenuated vaccine.
– Viral-vector vaccines
These vaccines use a virus (such as adenovirus or measles), that is genetically engineered to produce coronavirus proteins in the body, but the virus is weakened and cannot cause disease. Viral-vector vaccines can further be of two types: replicating viral vector (can replicate within cells) and non-replicating viral vector (cannot replicate within cells).
– Nucleic-acid vaccines
In these vaccines, nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) is inserted into human cells. These human cells then produce copies of the virus protein which produces an immune response. The two types of nucleic-acid vaccines under development are DNA vaccine and RNA vaccine.
– Protein-based vaccines
These vaccines use certain protein fragments of the virus which are injected directly into the body. The two types of protein-based vaccines being developed against the coronavirus are the protein subunit vaccines and virus-like particle vaccines.
While Covaxin is an inactivated virus vaccine, Covishield is a viral vector vaccine.
Q.17. Does India have the capacity to store the COVID vaccine at temperature of 2 to 8 degree Celsius and transport them at required temperature?
We can be confident that India can achieve this because India runs one of the largest immunization programmes in the world, catering to the vaccination needs of more than 26 million newborns and 29 million pregnant women. Moreover, India is the land to one of the largest producers of vaccines.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Varun Gupta, MBBS, MD (Pharmacology))
1. FAQs on COVID-19 vaccine. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). https://static.mygov.in/rest/s3fs-public/mygov_160985012951307401.pdf
2. Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 Vaccine. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/FAQsonCOVID19VaccineDecember2020.pdf
3. FAQs surrounding COVID 19 vaccine introduction. (Episode 2/3). Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL3Fh8yJQKo
4. Twitter handle of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. https://twitter.com/MoHFW_INDIA/status/1346787347308847104
5. Letter from Addl Secy, MohFW for contraindications and Factsheet for COVID-19 vaccines
6. Covishield Factsheet