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Dr Muffi

Vaccination for teenagers: Dr Muffi answers queries

January 13, 2022
-Dipta Joshi

Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, co-founder and chief surgeon, Digestive Health Institute – a clinic specialising in bariatric, metabolic and gastro-intestinal surgeries, volunteered to set up the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (BCGM)’s jumbo COVID positive facility at the NSCI Dome. With India opening its vaccination programme for children aged 15-18 from January 3 onwards, Dr Muffi answers queries posed by parents about the vaccine’s efficacy and side effects.

How effective is Covaxin for children in the age group of 15-18?

Covaxin is the only vaccine approved for children in India though the vaccine from Zydus Cadillac has also been trialled in kids. Trials done to study the effectiveness of Covaxin before approving it for children have shown good results in terms of safety and enhanced immunity against COVID.

How many vaccine shots will my child have to take in all?

Children are eligible to take two doses of Covaxin 28 days apart. The booster shots have not yet been approved by the government for children.

Some parents I know would like to delay their children ‘s vaccination just in case children react adversely. Is that a good idea?

With the rapid spread of Omicron, there are always chances of further mutations happening to the virus genome. Hence, it is better to vaccinate the children at the earliest. The chances of reactions to the Covaxin are extremely low. Data shows getting two doses of any vaccine reduces severity and chances of hospitalisation to a large extent.

My child has already recovered from Covid. Doesn’t it make him immune to Covid and its variants?

People who have been vaccinated with two doses, taken boosters, or have had previous infections with the Alpha or Delta variant; have still got infected by the virus. Hence, it is mandatory to vaccinate the children even after they have been exposed and recovered from the virus previously.

What are the common side effects of Covaxin, and will it be the same for all children?

The side effects differ with every individual. While most persons vaccinated with Covaxin haven’t reported any symptoms, some have had mild fever, body ache and arm pain. In rare cases, people have reported suffering from headaches.

The adults in our family took Covishield but my child is getting Covaxin. Any instructions that I need to follow post my child’s vaccination?

Covishield (AstraZeneca) produced blood clots as an extremely rare side effect in some young individuals in Europe leading to a temporary halt to its use in Europe and the UK. Hence it is not being used for children. The company which produces Covaxin has clearly advised not to take any anti-inflammatory drugs or paracetamol dose along with Covaxin. Hence, nothing specific needs to be done post the child’s vaccination. What needs to be remembered though is that the period between the two doses of the Covaxin vaccine is 28 days.

Should I give my child a pain reliever before the vaccine itself to help with the pain in the arm etc.?
Bharat Biotech which produces Covaxin does not approve the taking of any painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs along with the Covaxin vaccine either before or after the shot. Please speak to your doctor for persistent pain.

Could my child be infected with the Covid/ Delta/ Omicron variant after his first vaccine shot?

Vaccinations that are being done right now will boost your child’s immunity to fight the virus in the longer term. However, it will still take a minimum of two doses and at least 15 days thereafter to have a robust immune response. So, the first dose will not protect your child against the current spate of infections. However, if one gets infected with the virus later, the severity of the infection would be milder. It is a proven fact that irrespective of having very good anti-bodies because of vaccination or previous infection, one can still acquire the COVID infection. Hence, follow the COVID protocols, mask up and maintain social distancing as advised by the government.

How do we distinguish between the flu and Omicron amongst children?

The moment one has symptoms like fever, headache, nasal congestion, mild cough he should go for a COVID test. Due to the immune-escape mechanisms of the virus, the home rapid tests are not as effective andRTPCRtests can be more useful. However, how the test is done and when it is done can show the child as positive despite a negative RTPCR. Hence, it is always preferred to isolate the child with care and re-test the child on the 3rd or the 5th day even in absence of symptoms if they were in close contact with a positive patient without a mask for any length of time or even earlier if symptomatic. The infectivity with the Omicron variant remains so high that unless proven otherwise, most infections right now which mimic cold, cough, fever would be because of the Omicron or Sars COVID 2 infection.

Are there any contraindications, situations when I should not inoculate my child?

The only absolute contraindication against vaccination in my opinion is an allergy to an active ingredient of the vaccine. Having any kind of allergies to foods or other drugs does not prevent one from taking these vaccines. For any specific contraindications, one should check with one’s paediatrician before taking the vaccine.

How soon after my child has taken his flu vaccine can he take the Covaxin?

One can go ahead and give their child a Covaxin dose a week or so after getting the flu vaccine

What can I do to improve my child’s immunity to the new COVID variants?

Improved immunity, in general, helps the child fight against bacterial and viral infections. Irrespective of one’s immunity status, whether acquired due to prior infection with COVID-19 virus or vaccination or due to a healthy state of natural immunity one can still get infected from the virus. So, do not focus only on improving natural immunity and lull yourself in a false sense of bravado of the child not getting infected, rather focus on COVID appropriate behaviour like masking, social distancing, etc. protocols by the government. Medical data has shown that in most cases the Omicron strain leaves a very mild effect on children but, do not take it for granted and be complacent.  Thus, if the child has a high fever make sure to contact a paediatrician and take proper medications and treatment for the same at the earliest.

Also read: Six things to do when a child tests positive, a reminder for parents

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