3 things to keep in mind while choosing a Covid Vaccine

by - April 16, 2021



The COVID19 numbers are rising once more across the nation. Working inside a COVID19 ICU since the day the lockdown first began in India in 2020, I can vouch for that fact personally as tragically, the beds start to fill up once more. The numbers this time around are higher than they were last year and that is indeed worrisome.

But there is hope as well. 

We have started our COVID vaccination drives, raising the hope that we can one day resume a normal life. Several vaccine candidates are now available globally and, in the weeks ahead, will be available in India. This, of course, brings up the key question – what things should you keep in mind while choosing a COVID vaccine for you and your loved ones?

covid vaccines


Here are 3 things I believe you need to consider:

01. Understand the technology behind how your vaccine works.


COVID19 vaccines presently developed across the world come under 4 categories:
  1. Whole virus (Live attenuated or inactivated)
  2. Protein subunit
  3. Nucleic Acid (RNA & DNA based)
  4. Viral Vector
Each come with their set of pros and cons – for example, a live attenuated vaccine risks causing disease in people having a weakened immunity while RNA vaccines tend to need ultracold temperatures while can be tough to maintain in many countries. 

Conversely, viral vectors mimic the actual virus while actually using a harmless virus, triggering an immune response in your body (think of that harmless virus as a container carrying the code our body needs to make this magical defense). 

Even within this category, there are key differences to note between vaccines – while AstraZeneca’s ChAdOx1-S vaccine uses a chimpanzee adenovirus and Johnson & Johnson uses human adenovirus serotype Ad26, Sputnik V is a two-vector vaccine using adenovirus serotypes 5 and 26 in addition to the HEK293 cell line, which has been used for long in previous biotechnological products.

Why do I use these technical terms here which are going over your head?

This is to stress the point that vaccines based on adenoviral vectors are not the same – their biological structure and the way they are produced are different and thus, efficacy and side effects of one company’s vaccine is not related to the other. The results of each vaccine’s study need to be scrutinized separately.   

02. Understand how a vaccine works


A misconception persisting even today is that taking a vaccine means you cannot get COVID19 ever. I want to make this clear to you – vaccinations do not guarantee that. Vaccines trigger a response within your body that helps build a defense mechanism against the virus. Should you get infected in the future, you will still be positive for COVID19 but because the body has received advance notice on how to fight this virus, it is better prepared.

So, a normally healthy individual may be absolutely fine while infected and just needs to isolate during this period while a person with a weakened immunity who would otherwise have had severe complications would now have milder complications.

03. Follow the data


Yes, every vaccine company will come out with data that can be hard to keep track of beyond a point. Look for articles that have undergone proper scrutiny in renowned journals. Only the ones that are deemed to have done their studies by the book will make it to these journals. 
Look for these terms in articles too while comparing the numbers – 
a) higher efficacy
b) immunogenicity and
c) safety.

As an example, in February 2021, the renowned scientific journal Lancet published a verified study of the Sputnik V vaccine involving 19,866 individuals with COVID19 which showed an extremely promising 91.6 % efficacy, numbers that the Indian health ministry found comparable when a trial of the vaccine was done in India as well.  

Safety is also a key factor here. Despite mass vaccinations globally, the Sputnik V has not been associated with any occurrence of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a blood clotting disorder that has resulted in the temporary suspension of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines in USA.  




Following the data matters because you will only get one shot at choosing your vaccine (though ironically, that will probably involve 2 shots of the vaccine itself!)

I ask you to take an active part now in understanding your vaccine because this is going to one of the biggest decisions you make in your life this year. Choosing the right vaccine matters and for that, it is vital that you be armed with all the facts.

Stay informed and stay safe, my friend.

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8 comments

  1. I had no idea there are so many different ways a vaccine can be developed. Thank you for explaining it so simply.

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    1. People use the term vaccine generically without realizing all the different factors involved in each one's creation. Hence the need to read up on them.

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  2. I feel much better reading this before choosing the vaccine. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Continue reading up. Knowledge is truly power here.

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  3. I have been reading about blood clotting a lot nowadays after taking this vaccine. That does worry me.

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  4. Thank you for this post. Now that I am eligible for the vaccine, I wanted to make an informed choice. However, I am not sure if we will be given that option to choose, considering the density of population in our country. I have heard that the Zydus vaccine has more efficacy , so should I wait till I get that, is that information true or should I take whichever is easily available.

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  5. My in-laws got their first shot of vaccination and within a month they were found COVID positive. Though my mother-in-law had stomach upset as the major issue but my father-in-law was less affected. This way, I understand when you say that vaccine prepares your body to fight that disease.

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  6. The condition right now is very critical, we all should understand the situation and we should opt for right vaccine ,is right choice.

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Let me know what you think.