Will Covid-19 patients get vaccine? This is what ICMR said

With coronavirus developers approaching different governments for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA), the focus has now shifted on public discourse over what should be the priority order for vaccination. There have been cases of re-infection, though the rate is very rare, however, has resulted in a lot of panic.

Will those who have recovered from or suffering from Covid-19 be vaccinated?

This question was put to Dr Balram Bhargava, the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) at the joint Covid-19 briefing with the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday.

To this Dr Bhargava said: “This is one of the mandates that is being considered but we haven’t come to a conclusion yet. There are two issues — if someone has antibodies [that is, through natural infection, and secondly, if they could develop some adverse reaction after giving the vaccine shot.”

If such people need no vaccination, this would help the government spare the limited doses of the vaccine especially in the initial phase of vaccination. This depends on testing people with antibodies, Bhargava said.

If the government and health authorities conclude that everybody irrespective of their exposure to the novel coronavirus needs to be vaccinated, the active Covid-19 patients as well as those who have recovered will get the jab, he added.

However, only recently, ICMR-NITM (National Institute of Traditional Medicine) director Dr Debprasad Chattopadhyay had told journalists in Karnataka that “those who have recovered are already immune”.

“Scientifically speaking, vaccination is not necessary for them,” Dr Chattopadhyay said.

The question has become a tricky one in the wake of reports of re-infection of recovered Covid-19 patients and also of experts expressing doubts over the longevity of the immunity acquired through novel coronavirus infection.

Further, there is no definite pattern to be found among the range of viral diseases. For example, a person who has recovered from chickenpox is generally advised not to go for vaccination. However, it is not uncommon for somebody to have a second infection over a period of time.

On the other hand, common flu can catch a person more than once during the same season. And, people are advised to take booster doses of flu vaccines regularly to keep themselves protected.


India would be using its expansive network of its 42-year-old universal immunisation programme for administering Covid-19 vaccine to about 30 million people in India.

Sources in the government have confirmed that from about 2 lakh workforce of vaccinators of the existing immunisation programme of 1.5 lakh workers will be used for administering Covid-19 vaccines to the first two priority groups largely, healthcare workers and frontline workers. This process could begin from January to March 2021.

The universal immunisation programme started in 1978 and every year the government vaccinates at least 25 million children in India for pulse polio, BCG, Hepatitis B, MMR and other diseases.

Nearly 17,000 government staff including vaccine store managers and cold chain handlers have been trained on mobile and Web-based eVIN applications while over 6,700 temperature loggers have been installed. The programme is to be scaled up to cover all the states and UTs of the country.

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