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 Rakesh Mishra, Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad. Dr Mishra has answered questions on the COVID-19 vaccination process, and the impact of the virus on autism.

Is it mandatory that people have to get the second dose of vaccine on the 28th day? Can they wait longer? Medically, what is the ideal duration between the first and the second dose?

Yes, the second dose is very necessary. It is good to have it on the 28th day, but if it is delayed by a few days for some reasons, it is still ok. There are reports which suggest that a delayed second dose is more effective but that is yet to be well established. To avoid confusion, the second dose should be taken soon after the four weeks of the first dose.

Are there any preventive measures and precautions that one needs to follow after a dose of vaccine is administered on him?

Proper use of mask, hand hygiene and social distancing (avoiding congested places or closed hall/room with many people) are necessary even after the first or even second dose of the vaccine. There is no additional precaution needed that is specific to the vaccine.

If being vaccinated doesn’t stop the person from spreading the virus, how can India reach herd immunity?

It is not established yet either way, whether or not vaccination will effectively stop transmission. Recent reports, however, suggest that vaccination is clearly helping in bringing down the infection rate in the UK.

How does COVID-19 affect people with autism? Can they take the vaccine?

People with special medical needs or health conditions, particularly those related to immunity should consult their medical doctor to ensure that their current medication and vaccination together are fine.

What can the population below 18 do to avert the risk of the virus, since they are not eligible for the vaccine?

‘Social vaccine’ is best for this age group, just like it is the best kind of precaution for any other age group. In a few months, vaccines may become available for this group as well. However, until then, they should follow all the cardinal rules of ‘social vaccine’ like self-hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks etc.

Should people avoid alcohol immediately before and after vaccination?

There is no research to establish this. However, common sense would suggest that it is good to avoid alcohol consumption immediately before/after the vaccination shot.

Should one be worried about blood clotting issues while taking Covisheild?

Not at all.

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 address your concerns through this column.