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COVID-19 Vaccines and People With Chronic Conditions

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COVID-19 Vaccines and People With Chronic Conditions

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COVID-19 vaccines are evaluated in multi-stage testing processes to ensure safety. This article will discuss them and their use in people with chronic conditions.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Radha Peruvemba Hariharan

Published At June 10, 2021
Reviewed AtOctober 6, 2023

Introduction

The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the highest priorities in this current pandemic. All the countries around the world are rolling out COVID-19 vaccines. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines have undergone multiple rigorous clinical trials and multi-stage testing processes to ensure safety. A person’s risk of serious illness was due to increasing COVID-19 cases due to several underlying medical conditions. Hence it is important for people with chronic diseases to get vaccinated with primary and booster doses as soon as they are eligible for it. COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully tested and continuously monitored, but still, there is confusion and misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in people with chronic illnesses. Read the article to know more about COVID-19 vaccines for people with chronic conditions, their safety, and precautions.

What Is a Vaccine?

A vaccine contains the same germs that cause the disease, but the germs are in weakened or killed forms. So that they do not make the person sick from the germ causing the disease. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies, similar to how antibodies are produced when exposed to the disease. On being vaccinated, a person may develop immunity against the disease without getting sick.

How Does a Vaccine Work?

Vaccines safely expose our bodies to pathogens so that our immune system can produce antibodies against these pathogens. Vaccines contain any one of the following

  • A weakened pathogen.

  • Dead type or inactivated form of the pathogen.

  • Protein derived from the pathogen.

  • Toxoid containing toxin from the pathogen.

What Are the Available COVID-19 Vaccines?

The currently available vaccines are authorized and approved by the World Health Organization and the authority responsible for the public health of each nation. Some of the available vaccines are:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

  • Moderna vaccine.

  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

  • Covexin.

  • Covishield.

  • Novavax.

  • Sputnik-V.

  • CoronaVac.

  • BIBP-CorV.

  • Convidecia.

How Do COVID-19 Vaccines Work?

COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines. The mRNA vaccines provide instructions to the cells to make a spike protein. This spike protein is seen on the surface of the virus that is causing the disease. Now the immune system recognizes that the protein does not belong to the body and builds an immune response against the virus. This is similar to how the body responds and builds immunity when the actual SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) enters the human body. Hence the body is trained to protect against any future infection. These mRNA vaccines do not contain any live viruses. And it also does not enter the nucleus of the cell where the DNA is present.

What Are the Side Effects of COVID-19?

There are a few side effects that are commonly experienced after taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Pain at the site of injection.

  • Redness at the site of injection.

  • Swelling at the injection site.

  • Fever.

  • Chills.

  • Headache.

  • Body aches.

  • Fatigue.

  • Muscle aches.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

These side effects usually subside within 48 days.

Can People With Other Medical Conditions Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Health experts recommend everyone above the age of 12 years take the vaccine for COVID-19. People with underlying health illnesses are at a higher risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. So they are in higher priority to get the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccine can be administered to most people with underlying medical conditions.

People with a Weak Immune System:

People with the weak immune system can be at higher risk of developing COVID-19. So they need to receive the vaccine to protect themselves against the virus. Many studies state that the robustness of both cell-mediated and humoral immune responses seen in healthy individuals is not seen in immunocompromised patients after the vaccination. Although positive serology reports were seen in these immunocompromised patients, their antibody titers were low compared with the healthy population.

So it is necessary for people with weakened immune systems to be aware of the lowered immune responses to the vaccine and the need to follow the safety guidelines regardless of getting vaccinated to protect themselves against this deadly COVID-19. Such people should take booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as they become eligible for it.

People with Diabetes:

In clinical trials of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, people with diabetes did not show major side effects. The side effects reported in the clinical trials were common side effects that other people experienced after getting vaccinated, like soreness in the injection site, mild lethargy, and low-grade fever. However, the side effects are mild and do not cause any alarm. So it is recommended for people with diabetes to take the vaccine after consulting their healthcare professional.

People with Cancer:

There arises a question of whether vaccines are safe for cancer patients. However, the currently available vaccines have undergone multiple rigorous clinical trials to ensure safety. And the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain a live virus. So it is safe for cancer patients. So the only concern about COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients is how effective the vaccines can be. It is said that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients is less than in other people. Patients with ongoing chemotherapy have a lowered immune response to two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but a third dose increases the response. However, health experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) recommend everyone above the age of 12 years get the vaccines, so this includes cancer patients as well.

People with Heart Disease:

Heart disease can make it worse for people to fight off certain diseases or make it more likely for them to experience serious complications from the disease when infected. COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent catching COVID-19, but they can protect people from serious complications like hospitalizations. People with heart disease are at a higher risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 because the infection places stress on the heart through several mechanisms. So it is important to get vaccinated when people have cardiac diseases to reduce the risks and complications associated with COVID-19. However, consult the healthcare professional before getting vaccinated.

How to Keep Oneself Protected Against COVID-19?

Despite the vaccination, there are several precautions and safety guidelines recommended by health experts that can be followed to protect oneself from this deadly virus. When a person is already suffering from other health illnesses, extra care and precautions have to be followed.

  • Wear double masks when attending public meetings or public gatherings.

  • Wear a mask when surrounded by people who do not live with the person.

  • People may need to wear a mask inside the house if someone they live with is sick with the symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Wash hands regularly.

  • Carry an alcohol-based sanitizer whenever going out.

  • Disinfect the area commonly touched by others, like door handles, and lift buttons before and after using them.

  • Try to avoid going out unnecessarily.

  • Pre-stock all the required and prescribed medicines.

  • Avoid having visitors or strangers.

  • Stay connected with loved ones through video calls, phone calls, etc.

  • Maintain a social distance of a minimum of six feet in crowded places.

Conclusion

Vaccines expose people to a safer version of the disease. Vaccines are usually responsible for global public health successes. So it is necessary to get vaccinated with the available vaccine and break the chain of transmission. Following the guidelines regardless of getting vaccinated is also equally important.

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Dr. Radha Peruvemba Hariharan

Diabetology

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coronaviruscovid-19
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