By Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Ruqyyaha Deane & Meleeza Rathnayake
With some people expressing concern over the side-effects after the COVID-19 vaccine, the Sunday Times spoke to two experts.
The vaccine is safe, stressed Consultant Physician Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama attached to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Angoda, who was the first to get the jab symbolically on January 29.
He said that there could be side-effects, which could commonly arise with any kind of vaccine. These include fever, body aches, sometimes a little vomiting and a little diarrhoea. These pass within a day or two. The severity of the side-effects would vary from person to person, like what parents would see when children are vaccinated with the other usual vaccines.
Pointing out that Sri Lanka has given more than 300,000 vaccines already, he says that there have been no “serious” side-effects.
When asked whether a person who is hoping to get the vaccine should take any measures before and after, Dr. Wijewickrama said no special preparation is needed. If after the vaccine, there is fever, etc., then paracetamol should be taken and the person should rest. If a person is feeling unfit after vaccination he/she should not engage in exercise until completely fit.
The answer to: Are people with allergies at an increased risk of developing allergies after being given the COVID-19 vaccine, was provided by Prof. Neelika Malavige, Head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
“No, there is no danger of developing allergies with AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD vaccine,” she said.
Explaining that when looking at people who have suffered anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death), the AstraZeneca vaccine based on an adenovirus, has had no such incidents reported. The mRNA vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna, however, have been associated with 10 times more chances of developing severe allergies.
“It has to be remembered that any vaccine even those against tetanus, Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Mumps-Measles-Rubella (MMR) usually has an anaphylactic rate of 1 in 1 million. It has been found that in Pfizer and Moderna with regard to the COVID-19 vaccine, there is a slightly increased risk of 10 in 1 million in connection with anaphylaxis. There have been no reports of such incidents with AstraZeneca. Therefore, it is deemed that it is safe for people with allergies to take this vaccine,” she added.
Having said that though, all precautions should be in place such as emergency trays etc., during the COVID-19 vaccine programme, as in other vaccination programmes. In Sri Lanka, one instance of possible anaphylaxis had been reported so far and had been dealt with efficiently.
Addressing other concerns, Prof. Malavige said that none of the COVID-19 vaccines or any other vaccines would lead to sub-fertility or impotence. There is also no possibility of the COVID-19 vaccines changing anybody’s DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid or genetic material) or the vaccine components being incorporated into a person’s DNA.
She also stressed that due to patients with kidney or cardiovascular disease and those who are obese being at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and being severely ill, they should take the vaccination without fail.