A year after the Coronavirus pandemic wrecked our collective lives, our society has been grappling with fear and insecurity. As a result, we have seen misinformation spread like wildfire, and many resorting to bizarre and incorrect methods of dealing with the virus. With this column, which will be published every Sunday, we aim to address any health or vaccine-related question our readers might have about the coronavirus pandemic.

In this week’s column, the queries have been answered by Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, Former Director-In-Charge, ICMR-NARI and Ex-Head of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at ICMR. In this column, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar answered questions about vaccine misuse, the relationship between AstraZeneca and the rare blood clot, and the severity of a new variant of COVID-19 on children.

What happens if a COVID-positive person takes the vaccine?

If you are infected with Covid, your body produces antibodies against it. In this case, when you take the vaccine, it will not be as effective in stimulating the immune response.

Is the new COVID-19 strain impacting children more adversely?

Children generally get a viral infection from adults around them, whether at home or at their school. Not many children were getting the infection last year because they were at home. Then, when schools reopened, younger adults and children also start getting the infection. However, the severity of the disease is less in children, with most of them remain asymptomatic.

When a viral infection comes in a pandemic mode, it affects the mobile population first, which is essentially adult. As time passes by it moves to the younger population, which is a sign that it is going to be endemic. A very small proportion of children may develop the multisystem inflammatory syndrome. But it continues to be an infrequent or rare manifestation.

Are the side effects more severe after the first shot, or after the second jab of the vaccine?

Side-effects after the second dose of the vaccine are of lesser intensity and for a shorter duration as compared to the first dose.

What happens if someone who had registered on Co-win portal missed his first or second vaccination date?

There is an option to re-register if you miss the first dose. In case you miss your second dose, you have a provision to re-schedule it.

A growing number of people who are ineligible for vaccines on the basis of age limit are trying to find back channels to get vaccinated. What is the government doing to address the problem?

Recently two institutes in Delhi were found to be providing the Covid vaccine to people below 45 years of age by showing them as healthcare workers. So, to stop the misuse of the vaccine, the government stopped healthcare and frontline workers’ registration through Co-Win portal. Instead, now they can register at a government authorised place, where they have to show documents to support that they are healthcare or frontline workers.

Although the relationship between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots are still being investigated, what are some of the ways/symptoms through which patients can identify a blood clot in their veins/ lungs/heart or brain?

First, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not affect the lungs or the heart. It is only associated, that too in very rare cases, with cerebral thrombosis. In such cases, patients generally get a severe headache after taking the shot and the intensity of the headache increases significantly if the person tries to bow down the head. But, I must say, that this event is really rare among Indians.

In some cases it has been found that even though the RT PCR test report of some patients was negative, their lungs were severely damaged by COVID 19 virus. Is the RT PCR not as accurate for the new strains, as there had been reports of a lot of false negatives?

RT-PCR detects the genes of the virus. It needs at least two genes to come positive to be labelled as COVID infection.

If the virus accumulates many mutations, then it is possible that RT-PCR comes negative even in presence of the virus. So far, the RT PCR continues to be a reliable method as the variants reported have not yet changed so much to cause such a problem.

When the virus is so transmissible, how can one protect oneself?

The most effective way of protecting oneself from contracting such a communicable disease is by following preventive measures. When you are infected and wear a mask properly, your chances of giving it to somebody reduces significantly. If you are healthy and wearing a mask, you have less chances of contracting the disease. Also, one should avoid crowding, maintain physical distance, and take vaccine if you are eligible to protect oneself from developing severe disease.

DISCLAIMER: Do you have questions about Coronavirus? Or the vaccines? Send us your questions: Tweet with #AskADoctor. Every week, we will have a public health expert address your concerns through this column.

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