Covid-19: After 13 deaths post vaccination, doctors urge Health Ministry to investigate

The ministry has categorically ruled out any causal links so far
Last Updated 03 February 2021, 11:17 IST

Following 13 deaths after coronavirus vaccination in the last two weeks, a group of doctors and public health researchers on Sunday asked the Union Health Ministry to urgently investigate these deaths and share the information in the public domain.


"Please place complete information on all deaths, severe and serious AEFIs (adverse events following immunisation) in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, and their investigation, in the public domain. This information should include the numbers, date of vaccination, details of the AEFI, place, investigation status and results,” they wrote in a letter to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

After the vaccination began on January 16, post-vaccination deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Haryana, Odisha, Kerala and Gujarat. Most of the 13 deaths took place between a few hours and five days of the individuals taking the vaccines.

The ministry has categorically ruled out any causal links so far and all the deaths have been ascribed to cardiovascular problems or brain stroke.

The two latest deaths were reported from Telangana and Gujarat on Sunday. A 55-year-old health worker from the Kasipet Mandal of Mancherial district died 11 days after vaccination whereas a 30-year-old sanitation worker of Vadodara Municipal Corporation died two hours after getting the jab.

“The cause of death is clearly indicative of underlying morbidities and not due to Covid vaccination,” the Director of Public Health and Family Welfare in Telangana said in a statement. In a report Ranjan Aiyyar the superintendent of Sayaji Hospital that administered the shot said the death of the sanitation worker was not primarily due to the corona vaccine but a post-mortem is being done to know the exact reason. The recipient is known to have a heart problem.

"All the medical information on the cause of death should be in the public domain to increase public confidence. We are worried that without such transparency, people may lose trust in the vaccine,” said Amar Jesani, editor, Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, Mumbai and one of the signatories to the letter.

A senior ICMR official, however, said that information based on the post-mortem report was shared for greater transparency whereas the complete AEFI investigation might take up to a month. The post-mortem is generally carried out within 24-48 hours.

Also read: Sanitation worker dies hours after getting Covid-19 vaccine in Gujarat

"While any death is unfortunate, all such deaths need to be ascertained for a definitive cause. Deaths are reported within 24-48 hours and causality establishment can be made within a month,” Samiran Panda, who heads the epidemiology and communicable diseases division at the Indian Council of Medical Research told DH.

"While the Government needs to be more oriented towards public redressal, the people too need to appreciate the scientific process of causal link establishment.”

The doctors and public health researchers argued that all these deaths fall under the category of the World Health Organisation’s definition of a “cluster” of serious AEFIs and should be probed accordingly.

“Though the district/state officials have stated that none of the deaths (the letter refers to 11 cases reported till Saturday) are related to the vaccine, the reports of the District, State and National AEFI Committees on the assessment of these deaths and other serious AEFIs have not been released,” they wrote.

“No details of who investigated the deaths, and the methodology used for each investigation, have been made public. The National Committee has an obligation to investigate possible patterns in causative factors for these deaths.”

(Published 31 January 2021, 17:13 IST)

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