The Weekly Vax Update: India Sets New Record And Study Notes How Shots Help In Beating Back Serious Infection

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New variants have prompted questions as to how effective vaccines are in countering them. Studies have shown that getting a jab may prevent serious infection among high-risk groups. Which means that vaccines can help countries crack the key to prevent fresh surges. India made giant strides in that direction when it vaccinated more than 80 lakh individuals following the roll-out of the Centre’s free vaccination scheme on June 21. Here are the notable developments on the vaccine front this last week.

Vaccination Helps Prevent Hospitalisation, CMC Vellore Study Says

Healthcare workers are seen as being a high-risk group for Covid-19 and have been among those prioritised for vaccination in India. A study among the staff at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, has found that those who have received complete vaccination, that is, both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, showed more protection against hospitalisation.

According to data from the hospital, of 8,991 vaccinated healthcare workers, only 6 per cent of those who contracted Covid-19 needed hospitalisation, thus bolstering the view of experts who say that vaccination helps prevent serious infection from Covid-19. "There are studies emerging from India that show protection after vaccination… Studies show that after vaccination, the need for hospitalisation reduces by 75-80 per cent. Even after you get an infection after receiving the dose, according to the data, the chance of hospitalisation was just around 20 per cent," NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul said while discussing the findings of the CMC report.

Researchers who carried out the CMC study said their “study corroborates… that vaccination is protective, although we did not look at the variants responsible for the massive second wave.” Which is to say that the researchers did not analyse the effectiveness of vaccines against the Delta variant, which caused India’s second wave surge, or Delta-plus after it emerged as the newest variant for scientists and health authorities to worry about at a time when experts are not ruling out a third wave of the pandemic.

An AIIMS Study earlier this month had found that among those patients who contracted the infection following vaccination — known as breakthrough cases — there were no fatalities even among those who had a high viral load.

Are Vaccines Effective Against Delta-plus?

It is the question that is on everybody’s lips amid talk of a third wave of Covid-19 infections hitting India. The Union Health Ministry has said that Covishield and Covaxin are both effective against the Delta-plus variant. While the makers of Sputnik V, the third vaccine against the novel coronavirus in use in India, have said that their shot is effective against the Delta variant, the parent lineage of Delta-plus.

It has been reported that the Delta-plus variant may be able to spread more easily and it may be equipped to escape neutralising antibodies. The Union Health Ministry has said that Covishield and Covaxin — the two frontline vaccines being used in India — are both effective against the Delta-plus variant although further details are awaited.

Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) have said they will study the Delta-plus variant in terms of how effective vaccines are against it.

"As per earlier data concerning Delta variant, neutralisation was happening with the existing vaccines in India. Though neutralisation has dropped, it's enough to protect against the Delta variant. Delta Plus should also behave (in a similar manner). We are working in this direction. We have isolated this variant and we are going to conduct a study soon,” an NIV scientist said.

More Than 80 Lakh Vacccines Given In A Day, India Eyeing 1 Crore Target

June 21 was the International Yoga Day. It was also the day that the new scheme for vaccinations kicked off in India under which the Centre is providing vaccines free of cost to those above 18 years of age. Right on the first day of the rollout of the new policy, the country clocked an impressive feat as it surpassed its earlier figure for the number of shots administered on a single day. According to the seven-day rolling average for vaccinations on a single day, a total of 87+ lakh people received a shot on June 21. That was substantially higher than the 48+ lakh doses that was the earlier high for daily vaccinations, set in the third week of May.

The boost in numbers provided cause for cheer in India’s Covid-19 fight even as experts urged that expeditiously covering as many people as possible as part of the vaccination campaign was a key strategy to prevent a third wave of infections.

To that extent, the Centre has reportedly said that daily inoculations would be increased to 1 crore doses from mid-July or early August with Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India set to step up supply of, respectively, the Covaxin and Covishield shots that they produce.

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