‘Very small numbers’ of infection after Covid jab: Health Ministry

Only 0.04% and 0.02% of people receiving Covaxin and Covishield, respectively, contracted Covid-19. Phase 3 trials show Covaxin can neutralise most variants.

The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday brought out data on the occurrence of Covid infections after people were administered the vaccines. The official data showed that such cases were in “very small numbers”.

“Two to four per 10,000 breakthrough infections of Covid-19 have happened after people received the vaccine. This is a very, very low number, nothing to panic about,” said Balram Bhargava, Secretary, Department of Health Research, and Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

According to the data, 4,208 of the 93,56,436 people who received the first dose of Bharat Biotech’s ‘made-in-India’ Covaxin have tested Covid-positive, which amounts to only 0.04 percent. A similar percentage was infected after the second dose of Covaxin, as only 695 out of 17,37,178 tested positive.

For the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, the numbers are even lower at about 0.02 percent of those who received the first dose and around 0.03 percent of those who took both doses. In numbers, that is 17,145 out of 10,03,02,745 recipients of one Covishield dose, and 5,014 out of 1,57,32,754 recipients of both doses.

These numbers suggest that the vaccines are safe, said the government, and that more people should get vaccinated to fight effectively against the infection. Bhargava said these numbers also include healthcare workers who received the vaccines but are more exposed to the virus.

The interim results from the Phase 3 trials of Covaxin were also declared on Wednesday. The vaccine has shown an overall interim clinical efficacy of 78 percent.

Dr Krishna Ella, MD and Chairman of Bharat Biotech, said, “Due to the recent surge in cases, 127 symptomatic cases were recorded, resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 78 percent against mild, moderate, and severe Covid-19 disease. The efficacy against severe Covid-19 disease was 100 percent, with an impact on reduction in hospitalisations. The efficacy against asymptomatic Covid-19 infection was 70 percent, suggesting decreased transmission in Covaxin recipients.”

“Efficacy against SARS-Cov-2 has been established. Covaxin has demonstrated an excellent safety record in human clinical trials and in usage under emergency use. The efficacy data against severe Covid-19 and asymptomatic infections is highly significant, as this helps reduce hospitalisations and disease transmission, respectively,” he added.

Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR with seed strains received from the National Institute of Virology. The Phase III study enrolled 25,800 participants between 18 and 98 years of age, including 10 percent over the age of 60, with analysis conducted 14 days after the second dose.

Bhargava also informed that Covaxin has been found to be effective in neutralising most variants of the virus, including the double mutant strain. “The tireless efforts of our scientists at ICMR and BBIL have resulted in a truly effective international vaccine of the highest standards and efficacy. I am also happy to note that Covaxin works well against most variants of SARS-CoV-2. These findings together consolidate the position of our indigenous vaccine in the global vaccine landscape,” he said.

Reportedly, more than 60 countries globally have expressed their interest in Covaxin. “Covaxin is now a global innovator vaccine derived from research and development from India,” said Ella.

With agency inputs