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Immunity, side-effects, animal products? British Kashmiri doctors clarify doubts, advise people to take the COVID shot

Twitter: @bkma_the

Srinagar: As coronavirus vaccination process in underway in many countries, the British Kashmiri Medical Association (BKMA) has come up with a detailed statement clarifying concerns and answering questions people may have over the entire process.

While the statement has primarily addressed the people, especially the ethnic minorities and Kashmiris in UK, it has clarified some important questions that people across the world have vis-à-vis the COVID vaccines.


“This is a consensus statement specific to the Pfizer/BioNTech , Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine and is based on the current published evidence and guidance. So far more than 40 million people have been given this vaccine worldwide and over 3.5 million people in the UK. Apart from minor side effects like fatigue, headache and local pain most people have tolerated the vaccine well,” read the statement.

In India, jabs developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University and by local firm Bharat Biotech have been approved and are being used to inoculate people.

Considering that there are still new cases and deaths being reported across the world, BKMA has said that vaccination is an “important long-term tool to public” and has advised people to take the shot.

“Although we have learnt to treat corona virus disease much better and many treatments are now available, the death rate still remains very high. With the recent surge in infections in the UK, short term measures of lock downs, face masks and social distancing continue to be mandatory. Rapid vaccination is an important long-term tool to protect the general public, hence we advise all those who are offered the vaccine to consider taking it,” the statement added.

Explaining how the AstraZeneca vaccine works, BKMA said that the vaccine “uses an adeno virus vector to deliver the viral gene product inside the human cells”.

It involves the corona virus spike protein gene being inserted into inactivated Chimpanzee Adeno Virus (ChAdOx1-nCov19), which, when injected into humans, triggers an immune response.

This vaccine is 60-90% effective and can be stored at normal fridge temperature, the Association added.

The Association has also clarified certain myths and answered some questions about the vaccine.

The Kashmir Monitor is reproducing the same here:

1. Will the vaccine change my DNA?

The Pfizer or Moderna RNA vaccines do not get incorporated in our DNA but remain in the cytoplasm of the cell. It gets destroyed within 4-6 days. Hence it does not

cause any genetic changes to our cells. Similarly the AstraZeneca Vaccine is an inactivated viral vaccine; it does not transmit from cell to cell and does not get translocated to the nucleus.

2. Will any of these vaccines affect my fertility?

 There is no evidence for any vaccine to cause infertility.

3. What are the common side effects of the vaccine?

Most reported side effects are similar to other vaccines, like discomfort at injection site, headache, feeling tired, achy or feeling sick. These side effects disappear within a week.

4. How long does the immunity last with the current COVID-19 vaccine?

At this moment we do not know how long the immune response will last. It is assumed the response may last for 6 months to 1 year, hence a yearly vaccine, like the flu vaccine, may be mandatory.

5. If I have COVID-19 symptoms or I have had COVID-19 in the past and have now fully recovered, when can I take the vaccine?

You should not take the vaccine until your symptoms of infection have subsided and your doctor has confirmed that you are well enough to have the vaccine. All the patients who have had previous COVID-19 infection and have recovered from the illness are also recommended to have the vaccine since it is unknown if antibodies developed post-COVID-19 infection are robust enough for full protection against new infection.

6. Can I take the COVID-19 vaccine with the flu vaccine?

You should take both flu and COVID-19 vaccine. The current recommendation from JCVI is to take the COVID-19 vaccine at least7 days before or after the flu or any other vaccine in order to identify any side effects due to the COVID-19 vaccine.

7. Do I still need to follow infection control advice after I had the vaccine?

No vaccine is completely effective, and it will take a few weeks for your body to build up protection. So you will still need to continue to practice social distancing, wear a face mask and wash your hands carefully and frequently.

8. Do any of these vaccines contain animal products?

None of these vaccines contain any content of animal origin (i.e. no gelatine, pork or beef) and no products contain foetal cells. Hence the vaccine has been approved by Muslim religious bodies as acceptable.

9. Can cancer patients or people who are immunosuppressed, take the vaccine?

COVID-19 infection leads to high mortality in cancer patients. Although clinical trials did not include patients who had cancer or were on chemotherapy, JCVI has recommended the vaccine for all cancer as well immunosuppressed patients. It is possible they may not mount a robust antibody response but even a small response may be better than not having the vaccine. Hence all patients who have cancer or are immunosuppressed should take the vaccine when offered.

DISCLAIMER: This position statement is under constant review and will be updated regularly as and when new information becomes available