As India undertakes its third phase of vaccination in full force, the resurgence of coronavirus infections among vaccinated individuals has raised concern.
Dr RK Dhiman, Director of Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), and his wife had tested positive three days ahead of Holi, despite having received both doses of the vaccine.
However, Dr Dhiman encouraged people to take the jab despite cases of infection post the shots, saying that vaccines were very effective in preventing hospitalisation as well as deaths and even reinfected, the symptoms were mild.
According to a report in Times of India, King George's Medical University (KGMU) vice-chancellor Lt Prof Bipin Puri was reinfected 11 days after taking his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, yet he vouched for the vaccine, saying that it prevents critical illness from Covid-19. Puri was not the only one to bear the onslaught as KGMU medical superintendent and Covid-19 and communicable disease specialist, Dr D Himanshu, who had completed both the course of Covid vaccination, was also found to have been infected.
Can One Catch Virus Post Vaccination?
A few Americans have also been found to have coronavirus after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. Called "breakthrough cases," these instances raise an important concern: What are your chances of catching the virus after you are fully vaccinated?
While studies suggest that chances are very low, these "breakthrough cases" are very much possible, even with highly effective vaccines.
“You will see breakthrough infections in any vaccination when you’re vaccinating literally tens and tens and tens of millions of people. So in some respects, that’s not surprising," said Anthony Fauci, America's top scientist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a 26 White House COVID-19 briefing recently.
Published on April 2, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report claimed that the two-dose vaccine regimen is equipped to prevent 90 percent of infections two weeks after the second dose, which is when a person is considered as "fully vaccinated".
Why Reinfection Despite Taking Shot?
The reinfection or "breakthrough cases" can happen due to a number of reasons. One of the prime reasons for it is imperfect administration of the vaccine. Experts warn that albeit rare, mishandling of the vaccine — not maintaining the required temperature or if it is administered in wrong part of the arm — could lead to reinfection. Exposure to infection before the second jab could also become the reason for it.
A CVS pharmacy in Massachusetts, United States had in February issued a public apology after it inadvertently gave some patients only a partial dose instead of a full, more effective one.
Weak immune response in a person could be another factor. The weak immunity could be due to of prolonged medication, a medical treatment or genetic differences. Age is also thought to weaken the immune response, the clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines show high efficacy rates in older adults.
How Long Does the Immunity Last After Vaccine?
As the more and more vaccines get rolled out, studies are ongoing to see how long immunity will last, if people who are vaccinated can still spread the virus and whether the virus will mutate to the point where the vaccines are no longer effective.
According to Beth Moore, Professor of Microbiology and Immunity at Michigan Medicine, "all viruses mutate" io the last point. "The good news is the vaccine is still effective because the mutations haven't changed the basic structure of the spike protein so much that the neutralizing antibodies are not effective," she was quoted as saying by Michigan Health.
Experts are monitoring the new variants that have emerged in the last one year to see if eventually the vaccines will need to be modified.
A presentation made to the National AEFI Committee on March 31 highlighted that 180 people had died after vaccination and three-fourth of these deaths had taken place within three days of the shot.
In other serious adverse events too, the overwhelming majority took place in the three-day window, Times of India Reported. Even as AEFI deaths are reported daily, causality assessment by the National AEFI Committee appears to be lagging with information about just 10 deaths in the public domain, the report said.
Infection After the Second Dose of Vaccine
Civil surgeon of Vaishali, Dr Inder Deo Ranjan, tested positive after he had received the second dose of vaccine. Similarly, two health department officials tested coronavirus positive in the Jalna district of Maharashtra days after they were given the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
As per reports, Dr. Arunabha Choudhury, Supdt, Karimganj Civil Hospital tested COVID positive after his second jab of the vaccine. Despite being administered both doses of Corona, Varanasi CMO test positive for Covid-19.
Notably, all the cases of reinfection were said to have been suffering from mild symptoms to this Dr PK Gupta, former president, IMA was of the opinion that there is a possibility of people testing positive for Covid despite taking the vaccine, but the intensity of the virus would be less.
AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria was also found encouraging people to take the Covid jab. In a conversation with CNN-News18's Marya Shakil, he admitted that one may still get the infection after the vaccination, but he or she will be asymptomatic or it will be a mild illness. He also said that the immunity from the current vaccines may last for 9-12 months.
Dr VK Paul, a core member of the central government's Covid-19 response team, has advised people to wear masks for a "long time" despite the vaccine in order to protect themselves. "We can have all the vaccines in the world but we will, for a long time, need masks to protect us," he was quoted as saying by India Today.
"We are facing an increasingly severe and intensive situation in some districts but the whole country is potentially at risk. All efforts to contain the virus and save lives should be taken," he added.