The Centre on Tuesday (June 15) confirmed the first death due to anaphylaxis following vaccination against COVID-19.
The death was confirmed in the assessment of 31 Serious Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) cases following COVID-19 vaccination, carried out by a government panel.
AEFI is defined as any untoward medical occurrence which follows immunisation and which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of vaccine. It can be any unfavourable or unintended sign, abnormal laboratory finding, symptom or disease.
The AEFI report stated that a 68-year-old man died due to anaphylaxis after being administered COVID-19 vaccine on March 8.
“It is the first death linked to COVID-19 vaccination due to anaphylaxis. It re-emphasises the need to wait for 30 minutes at the inoculation centre after receiving the jab. Most of the anaphylactic reactions occur during this period and prompt treatment prevents deaths,” Dr NK Arora, chairperson, National AEFI committee, told PTI.
The health ministry on Tuesday termed as “incomplete” and of “limited understanding” media reports which stated that 488 deaths between January 16 and June 7 following vaccination were linked to post-COVID complications. The ministry also highlighted that the vaccination coverage during this period was 23.5 crore.
“It is clarified that these reports are based on incomplete and limited understanding of the matter at hand. It may be noted that the term succumbed insinuates causality i.e. the deaths were caused due to vaccination,” the ministry said.
According to the report, the number of deaths reported following COVID-19 vaccination in India is 0.0002 per cent of the 23.5 crore doses administered, which is within the expected death rates in a population.
“In a population, deaths occur at a certain rate. The crude death rate in 2017, according to SRS data, was 6.3 per 1,000 persons annually,” the ministry said.
It also said that it is important to note that the mortality rate for those testing positive for COVID-19 is more than one per cent and vaccination can prevent these deaths.
“Therefore, the risk of dying following vaccination is negligible as compared to the known risk of dying due to COVID-19,” the ministry stated.
“Healthcare workers, doctors and vaccine recipients have been always encouraged by the government of India as well as state governments to report all deaths, hospitalisations and events resulting in disability as well as any minor and adverse events following immunisation at any point of time after vaccination,” the ministry said.
Deaths, hospitalisations or events causing disability or concern following any vaccination are categorised as serious or severe cases and are to be investigated at the district level, stated the report.
“Causality assessments help to understand whether the event was caused due to vaccine and these are conducted at the state and national levels. Therefore, any death or hospitalisation following inoculation cannot be automatically assumed to be due to vaccination unless investigated by the AEFI committees at the district, state and national levels and attributed to vaccination,” the ministry said.
The report also said that there is a robust system of AEFI surveillance at every level from the district to the state and, once the investigation is completed, the reports are released on the website of the Union health ministry, following transparent sharing of COVID vaccination related information.
(With inputs from agencies)