In India, with almost three months into the COCID-19 vaccination drive, cases of people succumbing to the after-effects of the vaccine are now surfacing. Data suggests that as of March 29, around 180 people have died following a vaccine jab. India has its own Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) committees (on state and national level) that are currently monitoring the situation. It is to note that AEFI refers to any “untoward medical occurrences in people” post they receive their vaccination. However, it is not necessary that all adverse reactions are caused by the vaccine.
The vaccination drive in India started on January 16 this year, and since then as many as 95.43 million COVID-19 vaccines doses have been administered. Among these, 11.27 million people have been inoculated with both the doses. The country has been inoculating people with either Covishield or Covaxin.
Citing a senior government official who has been working closely in AEFI review, a report by the Indian Express noted that more than 20,000 people have complained of side-effects after the vaccine dose was given to them. While 97 per cent people have reported mild or moderate AEFIs and do not need any hospitalisation, the data on people with severe and serious adverse events (SAEs) has not been provided by the government.
However, in a presentation to the National AEFI Committee, it was reviewed that 617 cases of SAEs have been recorded where 180 people have succumbed to it. Around 305 people having AEFIs were hospitalised and among this, 276 hospitalisations took place in less than three days after vaccination. In fact, even a large part of the first 124 of the deaths occurred within the first three days after the vaccination.
The report noted that it is not necessary that these vaccines will cause adverse effects and deaths. Indeed there are instances across the world where AEFI surveillance and investigations noted some drugs and vaccines to be unsafe for specific or general populations. But in India, the Coronavirus vaccines have not been found unsafe. All reviews across the world were conducted by various committees and India’s National AEFI committee was also a part of it. So far, the government has claimed for the safety of both Covishield as well as Covaxin and is urging all people in the priority groups to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the National AEFI committee is yet to review all these SAEs as well as deaths. After this assessment the committee will be able to say whether all deaths were linked to the vaccines being used. Of total 600 SAEs reported in India, they have received documentation of only 236 cases. The committee is likely to study a person’s medical history and/or post-mortem reports, hospital reports, verbal autopsy, and documents collected from immunisation sites.