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Coronavirus vaccination: The vaccination programme in India is underway for the past three months and it is set to enter the third phase in the coming month, with all people above the age of 18 years being allowed to get vaccinated and hopefully be protected from the coronavirus. However, in the past few days, the country has seen that even some people who have received both doses of the vaccine have tested positive for COVID-19. These cases are called “breakthrough” infections, and while very few such cases are reported, they cast a shadow of doubt on the vaccines’ effectiveness, according to a report in IE.
Such infections have also added to the already prevalent hesitancy around vaccines. However, in order to instil some confidence among people, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) last week released some data showing that among India’s vaccinated population, breakthrough infections were extremely rare, having an incidence rate of under 0.05%.
It is a known fact that no vaccine can provide 100% protection, be it for any disease, and thus, breakthrough infections exist for all types of vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines are no exemptions. The US’ CDC has said that while vaccinated people are far less likely to be infected, the chances of infection cannot be ruled out.
It usually takes two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine for the immunity to be built, and before that, the chances of a person to get infected are the same as those of a person who has not been vaccinated. Moreover, virus variants also play a role in being able to defy the immune response and breaking through the barrier provided by the vaccine, infecting the person.
As per the ICMR data till April 21, Covishield vaccine had been administered 11.6 crore times. Of these, 10.03 crore people have received the first dose so far, and among them, 17,145 people or 0.02% have been infected. On the other hand, of the 1.57 crore people who also received the second dose of the vaccine, 5,014 or 0.03% people got infected.
Meanwhile, 1.1 crore doses of Covaxin were administered till April 21, and 93,56 lakh people have only received the first dose so far. Of these, 4,208 or 0.04% people have been infected. Moreover, of the 17.37 lakh people who have also been administered the second dose, 695 or 0.04% people have been infected, the report stated.
The number of infected vaccinated people is therefore quite small, and it is not known how many of these people got infected within a few days of having received the vaccination. Moreover, among those who have been vaccinated are healthcare and frontline workers, and they are more prone to being infected because of prolonged occupational exposure, the report cited ICMR director general Dr Balram Bhargava as saying. He also said that another factor contributing to these infections could be the faster transmitting mutant strains.
A good news, however, is that while the vaccine does not offer 100% protection against infection, it does protect against moderate or severe infection as well as hospitalisation. The report cited Pune-based KEM hospital’s Dr Ashish Bawdekar as saying that most breakthrough infections are mild in nature.