'Covid-19 recovered people should also take vaccine'

Covid-19: Those who have recovered should also take the vaccine, advises Health Ministry

Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

Ending days of uncertainty, the Union Health Ministry has come out with an advisory that even those who have recovered from Covid-19 infections can take the vaccine in order to develop a strong immune system against the virus.

"It is advisable for persons recovered from Covid-19 to receive a complete schedule of vaccine irrespective of past history of infection with the pandemic virus," the ministry said in a FAQ on Covid-19 vaccination released on Friday.

Two doses of vaccine, 28 days apart, need to be taken by an individual to complete the vaccination schedule. Protective levels of antibodies are generally developed two weeks after receiving the second dose of the vaccine.

The issue was under the consideration of a national up level expert panel on vaccination headed by NITI Ayog member Vinod Paul, a former professor at AIIMS.

The decision comes days after US researchers showed that preferentially vaccinating seronegative individuals -who were not exposed to the virus and tested negative in antibody tests - yielded large additional reductions in cumulative incidence and mortality. 

But at the same time, they admitted that there would be implementation challenges for such a strategy.

Doctors said while the government was right in its decision because of the implementation challenges, antibody tests can be used as a tool to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

"Those who are hesitant to take the vaccine can be advies to undergo the antibody test. If they are found negative, they should be persuaded to take the vaccine since they don't have any protection at all," Abdul Ghafur, a consultant on infectious disease at Apollo Hospital, Chennai told DH.

"But it's difficult for the government to carry out antibody tests before vaccination. Also, it would add to the cost."

According to the Health Ministry document, those willing to take the vaccine would have to register themselves with the authorities. If they are found eligible, they would receive an SMS with information about the site and time. No one will get the vaccine without registration.

While healthcare and front line workers will get the shots on the priority basis, the third group of 27 crore people of 50 years of age and above would be subdivided - those above 60 years will receive the vaccine first whereas those between 50-60 years will get the vaccine after the first group is covered.

Currently, eight vaccines are under different stages of clinical evaluation in India while three companies have approached the Drugs Controller General of India for meer use authorisation license.