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. L. Ravivarman, State Surveillance Officer and Public Health Expert at the Health Department, in the Government of Puducherry. In this article Dr Ravivarman has answered questions about Remidisvir, Sputnik V and the lancet report which confirmed that COVID-19 is air-borne.

What role does Remidisvir play in covid treatment? Should we take it if we have symptoms?

Remidesvir is an antiviral drug that we use in severe patients. It should never be taken without a doctor’s prescription or at home.

According to a Lancet report, COVID-19 predominantly spreads through the air. Therefore, do social distancing measures still work as a way to prevent catching the virus. What are the ways to protect oneself from an airborne disease?

Evidence towards the mode of transmission of Covid virus is evolving with time, since last one year. While recent reports suggest more evidence towards the airborne transmission, it also doesn’t negate other means of transmission. Physical distancing will remain more relevant even if airborne transmission is the only means of transmission. To protect oneself from airborne disease, use a good quality face mask in an appropriate manner, be at well-ventilated (preferably cross-ventilated) space, use air filtration, avoid crowded spaces.

How does Sputnik V work on our immune system? Does it have a longer-lasting effect than the other two vaccines available in India?

The Sputnik V vaccine is a recombinant vaccine using adenovirus as the vector. Such vaccines induce two types of immune response viz. humoral and cellular immune responses. This vaccine uses a heterologous recombinant adenovirus approach using adenovirus 26 (Ad26) and adenovirus 5 (Ad5) as vectors for the expression of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein. The use of two varying serotypes, which are given 21 days apart, is intended to overcome any pre-existing adenovirus immunity in the population. When using such vector-based vaccines, immune responses are formed not only to the target antigen but also to the vector component.

The duration of antibody presence or the protection is still under evaluation for all the available covid vaccines and hence comparability in this regard can be done after a few months time only.

What are the at-home treatment facilities that patients should avail themselves of, in case they have severe complications arising from COVID-19, and cannot find a hospital bed?

Firstly, please get yourself checked if you have any Covid symptoms and consult a doctor. Proper treatment at the initial stage help avoids complication. Secondly, in case there are severe complications, then it is important to hospitalize the patient. The patient needs to be under medical supervision. There could not be any replacement for it.

How is the government working on increasing vaccine production? When will the vaccine’s age limit be lowered?

Considering the dire need and importance of the Covid vaccine, the Government of India has taken measures to render financial support by means of grants to the vaccine manufacturing companies. Also, more public sector undertakings are enabled to commence Covid vaccine production in the country, to meet the needs. In addition, vaccines from other countries might also be permitted for use in a phased manner.

The vaccine is introduced in a phased manner in our country depending upon the priority groups, who are more vulnerable to the disease.

Can someone who is receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 take the vaccine?

An individual admitted to a hospital and on treatment for Covid-19 might not need a vaccine during the course of treatment. However, two weeks after recovery, the Covid vaccine may be administered.

India is reporting many different mutants. Are they going to affect the vaccine? If yes, how to protect oneself from catching the infection?

As it happens in other parts of the world, the virus presents with different newer mutants in India too. By this, the virus might try to evade the specific vaccine-designed response. However, the vaccines we have right now are effective against the virus.

It should not be forgotten that the prime line of defence is the covid-appropriate behaviour only(Face mask, Physical distancing, etc.). These prevent the virus from entering the body, while the vaccine does its job only after the virus had entered the body. Hence, our first line of defence should be much stronger, leaving no job for the second line of defence.

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.

Read all the Latest News and Breaking News here