On 1 May, covid-19 vaccination for the 18-45 age group in India was opened up. According to Covid Tracking India, a website tracking the spread of covid-19 in India using scientific and mathematical models, around 10% of the country’s entire population has been partially vaccinated, while approximately 3% of the population was fully vaccinated by 13 May.
While many people are still struggling to find vaccination slots, there are plenty of doubts among those who are getting vaccinated. For instance, how important is it to eat something before you go get the jab?
Lounge spoke to Dr Bela Sharma, additional director, internal medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, about some of the dos and don’ts for when you are getting vaccinated.
Have a good meal, stay hydrated
It is generally advised that you don’t take the vaccine on an empty stomach. Eat something before you go. “You can eat a normal meal or a small snack. There is no dietary restriction as such,” says Sharma. “We advise not to have a very heavy meal just before the vaccination, for the simple reason that if you feel uncomfortable, then it might be mistaken as a reaction to the vaccine,” she adds.
Once you get the shot, stay well-hydrated. If you drink enough water -- or it could be any form of liquid from nimbu paani to coconut water -- you will keep your blood pressure in check. “In some cases, after you take a vaccine, your BP can get low. Some people also sweat more or are anxious about something, which can lead to more loss of fluids. That can lead to low BP. That is why it is important to stay hydrated before and after you get vaccinated,” says Sharma.
Keep some basic medicine handy
A sore arm, fatigue, and a bit of lethargy. Once the vaccine is administered some of you might or might not feel these minor side-effects. Fact-sheets for both Covaxin and Covishield -- the two vaccines being used prominently for vaccination in India -- list these common side-effects: chills or feeling feverish, body ache, fatigue. Reading these documents can clear many of the doubts that you might have around the vaccines.
“The reactions to the vaccine are no different to what we get after a TT or tetanus shot or any other vaccine. You may have mild pain or swelling at the site (where the vaccine is administered). Again, individual reactions vary. Some people have no issues at all,” explains Sharma. “Some people may have a fever, which may last for a day or two. The only treatment you need is Crocin (a commonly advised medicine used to relieve pain and to reduce fever), which is available over the counter. Remember: drink lots of water. Keep yourself comfortable and cool.”
Also read: Can I stop wearing a mask after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
You should get in touch with a doctor if...
Vaccination guidelines recommend that each individual is monitored and kept under observation for a minimum of 30 minutes after taking the shot. While she hasn’t come across many cases of severe reaction to the vaccine, Sharma says if a person, immediately after taking the vaccine, faints, develops swelling or rashes, faces difficulty in breathing, they should seek immediate medical attention. “This is what we call an anaphylactic reaction,” she adds.
Don’t take off that mask yet
While the vaccine offers you a far greater degree of safety, it will be wrong to assume that you are completely safe from transmission. In recent months, there have been a hoard of cases across the country where people who have been partially or fully vaccinated have been infected by the covid-19 virus. A key reason here is people going easy on wearing face masks and social distancing. “The safest vaccine is your mask and social distancing,” says Sharma. “When you go for the vaccination, keep your face mask on. Don’t crowd the place.” Apart from double-masking -- pairing a good surgical mask with a proper cloth mask -- you can even wear a protective face-shield when you step out of the house to get the jab. “Even after vaccination, you shouldn’t let your guard down. People have been known to get infected even after getting vaccinated, although the infection is much less. Even after both your doses, we need to wear masks, wash our hands and sanitize in a proper way,” she adds.
In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this month, renowned virologist Shahid Jameel had also reiterated the same point: “Masks have to be a permanent feature of your attire, at least for the next year, maybe a year and a half, two years. There’s too much focus on this variant or that variant, but don’t forget that every variant can be stopped by a good mask.”
Also read: Anirban Mahapatra on science, vaccines, and the second wave