As in the entire world, immunization against covid-19 is advancing in Venezuela. The global effort by governments and pharmaceutical companies to achieve vaccines capable of reducing a pandemic that in just over a year has claimed the lives of 4 and a half million people has been titanic and unprecedented in the history of humanity, and so that that convergence of strength and wills to have a real effect is necessary the commitment of all and all. But that commitment can only be achieved if there is information and trust.
First, we were asked to wear a mask and maintain social distancing, avoid crowds, and in fact not leave the house if it is not strictly necessary. So much so that jobs and schools closed their doors and today teleworking, distance education and online shopping are routine. Now the prevailing request is to get vaccinated. By immunizing ourselves against Sars-Cov-2, we not only guarantee that our own lives are saved, but also those of those around us, preventing the spread of this volatile and deadly disease.
In Venezuela, various mechanisms have been established to guarantee that there are vaccines for the entire population from 18 years of age. In general, all people of legal age will receive a call to be vaccinated by default. However, those who wish can express their desire to receive immunization to expedite their appointment through various channels.
One is the Homeland system, also through the registry provided in the website of the Ministry of Popular Power for Health; Likewise, you can send a text message with the ID number to the number 74224 from any cell phone. On the other hand, different professional unions as well as organized communities carry out daily vaccination days throughout the country in coordination with the authorities.
But, in addition, without having to go through any of those checkpoints, anyone who shows up at many of the authorized vaccination centers (it is necessary to check first if the one near your home has this advantage) and queue receives your vaccination without the prerequisite of the scheduled appointment.
Getting vaccinated is easy, fast, free and above all necessary. It is an action that meets all the scientific and ethical criteria of this time and is also a commitment to those around us. All vaccines available in Venezuela — Sputnik-V, from Russia; CoronaVac, Sinovac (China); Vero Cell, Sinopharm (China) and Abdala (Cuba) - have the necessary endorsements and trials that guarantee their safety and efficacy, and also, the faster the immunization of the largest number of population is achieved, the faster the so longed for "normality."
Just in case: some necessary questions and answers
To contribute to the effort of the vaccination plan, we prepared a guide with 21 questions and answers about vaccines. To answer these questions, we consulted as a documentary scientific source the website of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from the United States and based on his experience to members of the Cuban medical mission in Venezuela (MMC), to virologist (PhD) Sebastián Aguirre (SA) and Barnacle Gude (PG), a family and community medicine resident physician, currently a data analyst for the covid-19 pandemic in Galicia, Spain. Each answer is attributed.
1. If I already got covid-19, should I get vaccinated?
There are various scientific criteria. The CDC recommends vaccination because it is not yet known exactly how long the antibodies of the infection remain in the human body and also because cases of reinfection are no longer so rare. In Venezuela, those who have already overcome the disease are vaccinated with the complete scheme.
In Spain, it is recommended to apply a single dose of any of the available vaccines to people who have already overcome covid-19 as a boost to the natural antibodies developed by the body (PG).
2. How long after I overcome the illness should I wait to receive the vaccine?
Although the criteria vary from country to country and with different authors, members of the MMC recommend in Venezuela to wait at least two months after infection. The CDC recommends waiting a little longer, 90 days, although it details that the time depends on the type of treatment received to overcome the disease.
PG, on the other hand, explains that in Spain the only dose that is administered to patients who already had covid-19 is applied six months after infection.
3. Should I continue to wear a mask and keep my distance after getting vaccinated? Why?
"Yes. The vaccine teaches us to make antibodies, but it is not a 'waterproof' that prevents the entry and exit of viruses from the respiratory system ”, explains PG.
In the United States and Spain, the use of a mask in open spaces for vaccinated people was suspended, however, the arrival of new, more aggressive variants such as the Delta is forcing this measure to be reversed.
In Venezuela, the use of a mask and social distancing measures are still mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
4. What if I get only one dose of the vaccine and I get sick when I get the second?
The second dose cannot be applied if the patient was infected with covid-19 or even if he or she suffers from any other disease at the time. The treating health personnel should be consulted to make the decision according to the specific case.
SA noted that with the initial dose plus the antibodies already provided by the disease, the patient could be considered fully immunized and would not require additional doses.
5. If I lose the schedule, how long should I wait to receive a new vaccine?
PG and SA agree that the efficacy of the vaccine decreases if the second dose is advanced, but is maintained if the second dose is delayed a few weeks, so there is no need to worry if there are delays in completing the schedule.
6. If I am going to travel and the country I am going to does not accept the vaccine I received, can I get vaccinated again with another vaccine?
It is not advisable to get vaccinated twice due to the lack of studies in this regard. "There is no data to say that it is safe so it is better not to apply the vaccine again and not travel," said SA.
In any case, because the regulations and administrative, migration and other protocols related to covid-19 are still incipient, it is also very likely that they are changing and gradually adapting to all realities.
7. Can I get vaccinated if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes. All the sources consulted agree on this. PG details that the Spanish Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics advises pregnant women to get vaccinated during pregnancy and women with gestational desire to get vaccinated earlier. As for breastfeeding women, as with all antibodies, those in the vaccine pass to the baby through milk.
8. How long after being vaccinated do I already have the antibodies to the drug?
This depends on the vaccine applied, but generally between 14 days and the month after the first dose has been applied.
9. Do I have protection against COVID-19 if I only received one dose of the vaccine?
PG details that with one dose the protection is 20%, with two doses the protection reaches 65-95%, depending on the variant and the vaccine.
This changes in the case of the Abdala vaccine, which has a three-dose schedule and also in the case of having already suffered the disease, they recall from the MMC.
10. Are there any contraindications to the vaccine? Who should not be vaccinated (if any)?
They explain from the MMC that in Venezuela the vaccine is contraindicated to people with decompensated chronic diseases, those who suffer from an acute infectious disease, minors, have received another anticovid vaccine or suffer from an allergy to any of the components of the vaccine.
People with some autoimmune pathology are also considered special cases. These patients must request a prior study to ensure that vaccination is safe.
11. How long after vaccination is alcohol consumption prohibited?
In Venezuela it is recommended to wait 48 hours for the side effects of the vaccine to occur without additional complications. However, the liquor does not affect the effectiveness of the vaccine.
12. How long does the effect of current vaccines against covid-19 last?
“The presence of antibodies lasts at least six months. The presence of cells specialized in making these antibodies (immunological memory) will surely last longer ”, stated PG.
13. Why are children not vaccinated against covid-19?
Minors are not massively vaccinated yet because, given the contingency, it was first thought to immunize the population most vulnerable to the virus, which is the largest, however, successful trials are already being carried out in the United States, Europe and Cuba with pediatric vaccines.
PG said that some countries already vaccinate from 12 years of age. "The new delta variant more frequently infects children and adolescents," he warned.
14. When or under what circumstances should I be concerned about the side effects of the vaccine?
Even though they are extremely rare cases, it is imperative to attend a health center if after receiving the vaccine certain symptoms are registered. PG details them: “Vertigo, double vision, paralysis of a lip corner, an eyelid or a hand or leg, or incomprehensible speech, are data of stroke secondary to thrombi. This happens much more often in infected people, but it can also happen in very few vaccinated people. The same thing happens with heavy oppressive chest pain (angina) ”.
15. Is it mandatory to get vaccinated?
In Venezuela, vaccination against covid-19 is not mandatory. Nor is it a requirement for entry to the country.
16. What happens if I lose my vaccination certificate?
They explained from the MCM in Venezuela that it is only necessary to go with the identity card to the vaccination center where the immunization was received or to another authorized to request a new proof, since all vaccines are registered in a unified national database.
17. What happens if I cannot keep my vaccination appointment? Can I attend on another date and / or at another center that is not the one assigned?
Yes, you can attend on another date and also at any other vaccination center, but it is always important to check before queuing because sometimes some vaccination centers only have the doses scheduled for the day according to the appointments previously agreed.
18. Can I choose which vaccine to receive?
No, in Venezuela you cannot choose which vaccine to receive. The immunization to be applied will be the one available at the vaccination center attended. There are some considerations that are taken into account according to the age of the patient, but they are not limiting.
19. Is it true that the covid-19 vaccine alters my DNA?
This has been one of the main premises of anti-vaccine groups to demonize vaccination. This is how two of the interviewees respond:
PG: “Totally false. We have a lot of bacteria and viruses in our skin, nose, intestines ... When these microorganisms die, their genes are 'floating' in the open next to our cells, but their gene chain does not get inside the chain of our genes! ! That is what a virus does when it infects a cell. RNA vaccines are pieces of RNA that remain 'floating' without getting into our DNA. There are RNA vaccines since 2017 against hepatitis b, papilloma or flu ”.
SA: "It is not our proven, but RNA vaccines like Pfizer's or Moderna's can be changed to DNA inside cells by something called 'reverse transcription.' They may - but it is very rare - insert into the genome. That happens with many viruses all the time, for example, the dengue virus and other RNA viruses, even with coronaviruses, the RNA molecule that the original virus has can be transformed into DNA by an enzyme that we have in our cells and that DNA it can be inserted into our genome. Then it may happen, yes, but it is extremely rare and it has not yet been tested with covid vaccines ”.
20. Is it true that if I was vaccinated, I can still get covid-19? So what is the vaccine for?
SA says: “The people who are infected, very few get sick with symptoms and many fewer end up hospitalized. Of 192 million people who have already been vaccinated here in the United States, I think there are only 1.600 who have been infected with the vaccine, many of them older people and others had other problems, so it is very rare for one to get sick, vaccines work very well".
21. Can the covid-19 vaccine save my life?
Yes. It is proven that even though the vaccine may not prevent infection XNUMX percent, it does protect against the most acute symptoms and therefore considerably reduces the mortality rate, even in the cases of the most aggressive strains. The vaccine is the best protection that science has developed to protect us against the pandemic.