New Delhi: A mere three in 10,000 people who received the Covishield vaccine and four in 10,000 who got Covaxin contracted the SARS-CoV2 virus after being fully inoculated, data released by the government Wednesday shows.
This shows that the vaccines are working, said Dr V.K. Paul, member health NITI Aayog and a key figure in the National Covid leadership team, at a press briefing.
“Breakthrough infections are sometimes happening about 3-4 in 10,000. This happens in foreign vaccines also. This incidence is very low … even if Covid happens after vaccination, it does not become serious,” he said, adding that these numbers occur in high risk population such as healthcare workers, so “incidence among common people will be even lower”.
Breakthrough infections refer to infections that happen post vaccination.
Among those who received Covaxin, 695 tested positive after the second dose, which is 0.04 per cent of the population that received the indigenous vaccine, according to the government data.
Of those who received Covishield, 5,014 tested positive after the second dose, i.e., 0.03 per cent of those who received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
India has so far administered 1.1 crore doses of Covaxin and 11.6 crore doses of Covishield.
Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, “These vaccines reduce severe infection and death. They also reduce chances of infection but it is still possible to get the disease.”
In a statement shared by the health ministry, Dr Randeep Guleria, AIIMS director, made a similar point. “The vaccine prevents you from getting the disease in the form of severe illness. It may not prevent you from getting the infection. Important to understand that even after the vaccine, we may have a positive report. It is why important to wear a mask even after [being vaccinated],” he said.
2020 versus 2021
Government data also showed that about 4.7 crore senior citizens in the country have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The total population of this age group is about 10 crore, Dr Paul said, which means about 47% people in this high-risk category have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
However, mortality of people aged above 70 years is a little higher in the second wave of the pandemic than in the first wave.
Further, a comparison of cases and deaths during the first and second waves also debunked the perception that young people are getting more affected by the disease.
During the first wave of the disease, 19.99 per cent of deaths were recorded among people aged between 70 to 80 years and 7.82 per cent were among those aged above 80 years. During the second wave, however, deaths in the 70-80 years age group rose to 22.17 per cent, while among those aged above 80 years, it is 9.81 per cent.
The only other age group which has shown a marginal increase in deaths is the 30-40 years group. During the first wave last year, 5.27 per cent of people died in this age bracket, rising to 5.39 per cent in the ongoing second wave.
However, a comparison of cases between 2020 and 2021 in the 20-30 years age group shows a marginal decline — from 20.41 per cent in 2020 to 19.35 per cent in 2021. In the 10-20 years age group though, there was a slight increase — 8.07 per cent of patients died in 2020, rising to 8.5 per cent in 2021.
The government had earlier shared data that showed that more 0-19-year-olds were being admitted to hospitals during the second wave.
‘Use oxygen rationally’
As the outcry over oxygen shortage across the country gets louder, Dr Paul appealed to nursing homes and hospitals to ensure “rational use” of oxygen since it is a life-saving commodity.
“We appeal to hospitals and nursing homes to do rational use of oxygen; postpone routine surgeries and care of other patients wherever possible,” Dr Paul said during the Covid-19 briefing, the second one to take place this week.
India meanwhile has also started the process of importing 50,000 MT of oxygen. It will take about three weeks to arrive, said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. “We produce 7,500 MT oxygen in the country. We are allocating 6,600 MTs to states today. We are also revising the list of industries who can get oxygen. Only those steel plants who have a captive oxygen plant will now be given oxygen,” Bhushan said.
The officials also appealed to doctors to ensure rational use of remdesivir, the anti-viral drug being used to treat Covid-19. “Not more than 7-8 per cent patients should require it,” Dr Paul said. There have been reports of a shortage of the drug, leading to black marketing of it across the country.
On a day India registered its highest daily count yet — 2.95 lakh cases — the officials refused to answer questions about whether India was unprepared for the second wave. “This is not the time for that analysis,” Bhushan said as he insisted that all protocols put in place for the first wave had been reactivated and refined to tackle the second wave.
146 districts have over 15% positivity rate
Currently, 146 districts across the country have a test positivity of more than 15 per cent. During the first wave, the government was pushing for keeping this count below 10 per cent.
As many as 274 districts have a test positivity between 5 and 15 per cent, while 308 districts have a positivity rate less than 5 per cent. The national case positivity rate is currently 17.99 per cent.
Bhushan claimed that at 1.17 per cent, the country’s case fatality rate is continuing to decline. When asked about when the second wave would possibly end, Dr Bhargava said, “We are in the second wave, we cannot say when numbers will come down.”
This report has been updated to accurately reflect the percentage of senior citizens vaccinated so far.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)