A year after the Coronavirus pandemic wrecked our collective lives, our society has been grappling with fear and insecurity. As a result, we have seen misinformation spread like wildfire, and many resorting to bizarre and incorrect methods of dealing with the virus. With this column, which will be published every Sunday, we aim to address any health or vaccine-related question our readers might have about the coronavirus pandemic.

In this week’s column, the queries have been answered by Dr Heena Gavit. A second-term Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from the Nandurbar Constituency in Maharashtra, she is a doctor by profession and has been a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) between 2014 and 2019.

Currently, Dr Gavit is the Chairperson of the Committee on Empowerment of Women and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources, the Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the General Purposes Committee of Lok Sabha. In this column, she has answered questions about COVID-19 and its effect on sleep, IVF treatment, and explained why the vaccination process is not open for all.

Should the vaccination process be open for all, and not only for a specific age group? If not, why?

Vaccinating every adult in a country of our size would require a huge supply of vaccines. The primary aim of vaccination is to protect our people from developing severe disease so that we can reduce hospitalisation and deaths. And , it is better to vaccinate smartly. So, we are currently vaccinating those who are the most vulnerable to catching the severe form of Covid-19.

Are women more likely to experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine as compared to men?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest this.

Can vaccinated people still spread the virus, even though they cannot be affected by it?

Yes. The vaccine helps reduce the severity of the disease. So, even after you are vaccinated you may contract the infection, but you are likely to remain asymptomatic or develop mild disease. In both cases, you can spread the infection.

Are asymptomatic patients less contagious?

Asymptomatic patients also carry the virus in their upper respiratory tract and they can spread it. How contagious you are depends on the virus load present in your aerosol. Though with a high viral load, you are unlikely to remain asymptomatic, we do not have a definitive answer. And in the pre-symptomatic phase, even when you have a low viral load, you can spread the infection, so it is better to follow the covid-appropriate behaviour such as wearing masks, maintain physical distance, and avoiding large gatherings.

Can IVF treatment continue even for COVID-19 positive patients?

It depends on what stage of IVF treatment you are at. It is advisable to conceive a baby when you are healthy. So, consult your treating physician.

Are antibiotics effective in treating COVID-19?

No, antibiotics are not found to be effective against COVID-19.

Can COVID-19 cause long- term insomnia?

In some people, Covid can have a long-term effect known as Long Covid. It can affect any major vital organ. In some people, it has found to adversely affect their sleep cycle, causing insomnia. But it is treatable. So, pls consult your doctor.

Do you have questions about Coronavirus? Or the vaccines? Send us your questions: Tweet with #AskADoctor. Every week, we will have a public health expert to address your concerns through this column.