Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said that some individuals may have side effects after they are administered the coronavirus vaccine, as the country gears up to undertake the mammoth task of inoculating its citizens from January 16. This includes mild fever, pain at injection site and bodyache, he said.

The minister, however, assured that there was nothing out of ordinary about it as the effects would be temporary and similar to the ones experienced while getting other vaccines.

“After being administered Covid-19 vaccine, some individuals may have side effects like mild fever, pain at injection site and bodyache,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is similar to the side effects that occur post some other vaccines. These are expected to go away on their own after some time.”

Vardhan also clarified that there is no scientific evidence to suggest the vaccine could cause infertility in men or women. “Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or information from unverified sources,” he said.

Vardhan added that one cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, but it was possible to have contracted the infection and not realise you have symptoms until after your vaccination appointment. “A person may also get mild fever as a side effect of the vaccine but that should go away in a day or two,” he said. “This should not be confused with getting Covid-19.”

Also read:

  1. First to get Covid-19 vaccine, India’s healthcare workers are torn between duty and personal safety
  2. What will it take to vaccinate India against Covid-19?

India’s vaccination drive

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch India’s coronavirus vaccination drive at 10.30 am on January 16 via video conferencing. As many as 3,006 sites across all states and Union Territories will be virtually connected during the launch. Around 100 beneficiaries will be vaccinated at each of the sites on the first day.

India has cleared two vaccines for emergency use – Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech’s indigenously-developed Covaxin vaccine.

The government is aiming to vaccinate 300 million people – a quarter of the country’s population – by the end of the summer. The two approved vaccines in India’s arsenal need to be administered in two doses, which means 600 million shots will have to be delivered in the next six months.

That’s more than 20 times the number of pregnant women and children vaccinated as part of India’s universal immunisation program.

On Wednesday, Bharat Biotech dispatched the first batches of its coronavirus vaccine to Delhi and 10 other cities. This came a day after the Serum Institute of India sent the first batches of its Covishield vaccine to 13 locations across the country.

The government has ordered 1.1 crore doses of Covishield at Rs 200 per dose. It plans to buy a total of 5.60 crore doses by April. From Bharat Biotech, the government has procured 55 lakh doses. The company will provide 38.5 lakh doses to the government at a price of Rs 295 each, while 16.5 lakh doses will be made free of cost.

Many scientists and doctors believe India’s drug regulator rushed into clearing Covaxin – it has no large-scale efficacy and safety data so far. Government authorities have strenuously tried to allay concerns about the safety of Covaxin.

A member of the national task force on Covid-19 management, Randeep Guleria, initially said the vaccine will only be used as a “back-up” in case of a surge in cases. But now it appears the both the vaccines would be administered simultaneously and healthcare and frontline workers may not have a choice, after all. “No country offers beneficiaries such choices,” Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan had said on Tuesday, while responding to a query on whether healthcare workers would have the option to choose between the two vaccines.