Who are the priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccine?
In every country, there are people who are at very high risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19. These groups of people are healthcare workers, older adults, immunocompromised adults, and pregnant women. It is essential that these individuals receive all of their COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as possible to protect themselves.
Should people who have had COVID-19 still be vaccinated against it?
Yes, PAHO/WHO recommends that those who have had COVID-19 still get vaccinated against this disease, regardless of whether the person had no symptoms or was very ill. The vaccine further boosts the body’s immune system against COVID-19. Also, to receive immunity through the vaccine is far safer than receiving it through the disease itself, since COVID-19 can have long-term consequences on a person’s health.
If the person has symptoms at the time of vaccination, SAGE recommends postponing vaccination until the person has recovered to avoid infecting others. This recommendation is applicable to all eligible persons, including older adults.
Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 if I am currently infected with COVID-19?
Before getting vaccinated against COVID-19, persons with symptoms that raise the suspicion of having COVID-19 should wait to be vaccinated until the period of acute illness is over and they have completed the isolation period recommended by health authorities. Once the acute phase of the disease is over, the vaccine can be administered immediately.
How long should I wait to get vaccinated after having had COVID-19?
COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at any time, as long as the person is no longer infected with SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., reports no symptoms).
However, WHO’s SAGE recommends that a person may choose to wait up to 6 months receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they have been infected with COVID-19 before. During this time, the person may rely on the immunity generated by the body during the disease.
However, emerging data show that people who have previously had COVID-19 may fall sick again, especially in areas where variants of concern are circulating. In these settings, individuals who have previously been infected with COVID-19 should ideally be vaccinated within 3 months of infection.
Can pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes. Like all of us, pregnant women are at risk of contracting COVID-19. Because their immune systems change throughout pregnancy, they are more vulnerable to respiratory infections such as COVID-19. If they do become ill, they tend to develop more severe symptoms whose treatment may require longer hospitalization in intensive care units, greater need for ventilatory support, and a higher chance of dying when compared to non-pregnant people of the same age and ethnicity.
Data from 24 countries indicate that more than 200,000 pregnant people have contracted COVID-19 in the Region, and at least 1,000 have died from complications of the disease.
Although we have limited data regarding COVID-19 vaccination in pregnant people, the evidence is clear that pregnant women are at increased risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to SARS-CoV-2 infection, which has led the United States’ Centers for Diseases Controls and Prevention (CDC) to include all pregnant women as a group to be prioritized for vaccines. Based on the updated SAGE Roadmap for prioritization, all pregnant women (regardless of risk factors) should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination when the benefits outweigh the potential risks. Also, SAGE recommends that pregnant women consult the interim guidance document for vaccine products. At this time, there is not enough data on the safety or efficacy on vaccination of pregnant women with the Bharat vaccine.
More information: SAGE recommendations for prioritizing vaccines in the context of limited supply
Can breastfeeding women get vaccinated?
Yes. Lactating women can get vaccinated and because they are as likely to benefit from vaccination as other adults their age, and breastfeeding offers substantial health benefits to lactating women and their breastfed children. WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding because of vaccination.
Since none of the COVID-19 vaccines are live virus vaccines, it is biologically and clinically unlikely that they would pose a risk to the breastfeeding child.
Can people with underlying conditions get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, people with underlying conditions are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they are able because they tend to be at higher risk of complications from COVID. The available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in people with known medical conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary, liver, or kidney disease. Immunocompromised persons are considered to be at particularly high risk of severe disease and death and should be prioritized for vaccination.
Can individuals who have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) be vaccinated against COVID-19?
GBS is a rare immune system disorder that results in muscle weakness, pain, or numbness, and, in more severe cases, paralysis. GBS could result from different causes, including infections, and occurs more frequently in males and persons over 50 years old. Cases may occur coincidentally following vaccination.
Yes, people who have previously had GBS may receive a COVID-19 vaccine. To date, no cases of GBS have been reported following vaccination in participants in the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.
Can children be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Children can be infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others. When they are sick, most children have a mild illness that can be treated at home. Hospitalizations and severe cases are more common among children with underlying conditions and are rarely seen among healthy children.
But due to the scale of ongoing SARS-COV-2 transmission, more people of all ages are becoming infected with the virus. And because vaccinated adults are well protected against serious illness, most hospitalizations occur among unvaccinated people, including children who are not eligible to receive doses of the vaccine.
In January 2021, WHO has approved the use of Pfizer's vaccine in people aged 5 years and older, with an adjustment in the recommended dose for children aged 5 to 11 years. The other vaccines that have received emergency authorization from WHO continue to be authorized for people 18 years of age and older, with the exception of the Moderna vaccine – which is approved for people 12 years of age and older.
WHO recommends that countries offer vaccination (primary series and booster doses) only to children aged 5 to 17 years with comorbidities that put them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It is recommended that countries do not prioritize the vaccination of children or adolescents without comorbidities, at least until the groups with the highest risk of infection and mortality have reached a high vaccination rate.
There is currently no evidence available on the use of booster doses in children aged 5 to 11 years.
Are people with certain characteristics are more likely to have significant side effects after getting vaccinated against COVID-19?
No. According to the evidence available at this time, no risk factors associated with serious adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination have been identified.
Can people with allergies or immune system problems be vaccinated against COVID-19?
In most cases, yes. If a person suffers from allergies that are not related to a component of the COVID-19 vaccines, they can be vaccinated against COVID-19 when it´s their turn.
A history of anaphylaxis to any other injectable vaccine or therapy (i.e., intramuscular, intravenous, or subcutaneous vaccines or therapies) is not a contraindication to vaccination. For these people, a health professional should conduct a risk assessment. It is not known whether there is an increased risk of anaphylaxis, but advice should be given on the potential risk of anaphylaxis and the risks should be weighed against the benefits of vaccination. These people should be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination in healthcare settings where anaphylaxis can be treated immediately.
People with an immediate non-anaphylactic allergic reaction to the first dose (i.e., hives, angioedema without respiratory signs or symptoms occurring within 4 hours of administration) should not receive additional doses, unless later recommended by an experienced healthcare professional. Subject to individual risk-benefit assessment, the vaccine could be administered under close medical supervision if it is the only vaccine available to people at high risk for severe COVID-19. If a second dose is offered, the patient should be observed closely for 30 minutes after vaccination in a healthcare setting where severe allergic reactions can be treated immediately.