Health ministry claims single Covid-19 vaccine dose gives almost similar level of protection as two doses

The claim is based on Indian Council of Medical Research’s new vaccine tracker
Last Updated 09 September 2021, 17:38 IST

The Union Health Ministry on Thursday claimed that first dose of Covid-19 vaccines used in India offer nearly the same protective effect against death as the second dose, contradicting existing research findings that show double doses offer greater protection.

The claim is based on Indian Council of Medical Research’s new vaccine tracker that has been created by integrating three data sets – CoWIN, ICMR’s national Covid testing database and a Covid-19 database of the Union Health Ministry that has never been made public.

The tracker demonstrates 96.6 per cent efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine in preventing mortality, which goes up marginally to 97.5 per cent with the second dose.

This is inconsistent with many research findings that concluded higher levels of protection with two doses.

The claim of high protection from a single dose of the Covid-19 jab comes three months before the Centre’s target of inoculating 94.47 crore adults with two doses of vaccines by December 31.

While the entire target population is likely to be covered with a single dose by the year-end, two doses for everybody is out of the question as only 17 crore have received both the shots till now.

When DH asked top ICMR scientists why the states were not dropping the second dose vaccination drive and going for saturation coverage of the first dose in the backdrop of such a finding, there was no response. It is also unclear how the tracker took into account Covid-19 deaths at home.

ICMR director general Balram Bhargava said that the vaccine effectiveness values have emerged from an exercise to combine three datasets -- one on vaccinated population, the second on patients testing positive for Covid-19 and the third on patients who have died from Covid-19 -- linked through mobile numbers and unique identification numbers.

"It shows vaccines give protection in all age groups as the death rate is nearly zero among the vaccinated. The tracker will come online on the Union Health Ministry site soon,” he said at a press conference.

Last month doctors at Delhi's Ganga Ram Hospital showed a single dose of Covishield barely offered any protection from Covid-19 symptoms or severe disease but significant protection came with two doses. An ICMR study in July on more than 117,000 Tamil Nadu police personnel showed 95 per cent protection with two doses as against 82 per cent protection to those who received single dose. There are several other studies with similar conclusions.

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(Published 09 September 2021, 11:50 IST)

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