With hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccine doses now being given every day, doctors are being bombarded with questions.
Should I get the vaccine if I've already had Covid-19?
If I got the first vaccine shot, then catch the virus from a carrier, should I still get the second? And how long do I wait after I recover?
The National put your questions to Dr Abul Fazil, an internal medicine specialist at Aster Clinic in Barsha, Dubai.
“A lot of people want to be vaccinated but they have many doubts and queries,” he said.
Others have been turned away by medical centres because their blood pressure was not within the accepted, safe range.
Here are answers to some of your questions:
Can I take the vaccine if I have a cough or cold?
If you have a minor cold and cough, you can still receive the vaccine. But you will be turned away if you have a fever or are feeling quite sick. You may be asked to take a PCR swab test.
The immune system should be as healthy as possible when you receive the vaccine shot.
And medics cannot give you the vaccine if you are still Covid-19 positive – particularly if you were given hospital drugs to help reduce the symptoms.
What happens if I take the vaccine if I have flu, fever or Covid?
Two or three days after inoculation, the body begins producing antibodies as part of an immune response. Some people experience joint pain or a headache.
If you already have a fever or body aches due to your cold, these symptoms can worsen after vaccination. You may then need medication stronger than paracetamol to control the fever.
Even if your cold is a result of influenza or another respiratory infection, your body is already experiencing an inflammatory process.
The moment you take the vaccination, the immune responses become more aggravated and a patient can get worse.
As a result, doctors normally suggest that people with even a mild fever delay their vaccination.
Who else may be turned away or asked delay their vaccine?
Patients with chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension will be vaccinated, but only if the disease is under control.
A chronic diabetic taking medication must keep their sugar levels under control to get the vaccine.
If an individual's blood pressure is higher than 140/90, then they will be advised to avoid vaccination.
If someone has food allergies, they can still be immunised. If someone has a severe allergy to medicines, antibiotics or previous vaccines, then doctors will likely not administer the vaccine.
Why are you asked to wait for 15 minutes after the shot?
Medics advise people who get vaccinated to wait in the centre for 15 to 30 minutes in case they develop side effects. If they do, these can be quickly managed with simple medication.
Some people may have no symptoms, others may develop fever after vaccination.
Severe cases of anaphylactic shock are very rare. In this case, the person will have extreme difficulty breathing and will require emergency hospital treatment. But this will happen within a 15 to 30-minute window. It will not occur after three or four days.
On day three or five, you may develop a fever, body pain, severe headache, or lymph node enlargement. All these symptoms are good because it means the immune system is working.
I received one vaccine dose, then caught Covid-19 – do I still take the second dose?
If a person contracts Covid-19 after the first vaccine dose, the second dose should be deferred until recovery.
That may mean deferring the second dose until after 90 days.
I've already had Covid-19. Do I still need to be vaccinated?
People who have recovered from Covid-19 will still need to be vaccinated if they no longer have antibodies against the disease. Medics suggest people wait three months before getting an antibody test and then getting vaccinated again if needed.
There is no data to suggest life-long immunity for Covid-19 patients. There is not enough information yet to say for how long after an infection a person is protected from getting Covid-19 again. Present data suggests natural antibodies last between three to six months.
A Public Health England study last month found that British medics who caught and recovered from the virus had about 83 per cent ongoing protection after five months.
But an infected patient is not immune and can get the virus again, so people should get vaccinated – not only to protect themselves but to protect the community.
Which vaccine should I take?
Doctors and the UAE government insist that all vaccines being used are safe, and at this stage have been tested on and administered to millions of people.
Everybody’s immune response is different. It is important to remember that when you take the vaccine the body produces antibodies but that does not prevent you from getting Covid-19. This vaccine prevents you from developing severe complications from the virus.
Taking a vaccine will prepare your immune response so, if you contract Covid-19, the body will react faster and the virus can be neutralised.
Vaccines are administered in two doses so adequate antibodies are produced.
Some vaccines produce a robust immune response within a few days, while others take between four to six weeks.
By six weeks we can be sure the antibody response is good to counter the virus.
Will I need another shot in the future?
We do not have enough data yet to understand which vaccine produces the best long-term immune response.
We may know this by early next year and there will be enough data to determine which vaccine will stay in the market.
The vaccines currently available may require booster shots or we may need completely new vaccines if more variants of the virus develop.
Can pregnant women take the vaccine?
The vaccine should not be administered to a pregnant or a breastfeeding mother.
If a woman is planning to get pregnant within the next three months, she is not eligible for the vaccine in accordance with UAE guidelines.