Updated: June 19, 2021 1:17:43 pm
Preliminary data from the Covid vaccination drive among healthcare workers facing the severe second wave show a reduced need for hospitalisation, oxygen therapy, and ICU admission, according to Dr V K Paul who heads the country’s task force on the pandemic.
Referring to data from Christian Medical College, Vellore — 8,991 vaccinated healthcare workers, including those who received only one dose — Paul underlined that the role of vaccines in preventing ICU admission was as high as 94 per cent, which shows that vaccines offer protection against severe infection among high-risk groups.
“There are studies emerging from India that show protection after vaccination. There are two such studies on healthcare workers, who are the high-risk groups. 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,” Paul said.
“The possibility of the requirement of oxygen was just 8 per cent, and the data on serious ICU admission shows that the risk was just 6 per cent. Therefore, the protection becomes 94 per cent. This is powerful data from a reasonable size study because it was done where the risk of getting the infection was highest. And in one study, out of the 7000, there was just one death; even that person had comorbidities. It clearly shows vaccines offer protection, especially from serious disease,” Paul said.
Paul was referring to the study conducted by CMC, which reported incidence of symptomatic Covid infection among healthcare workers between February 21 and May 19: 1,350 tested positive (RT PCR) and 33 developed the infection within two weeks of the second vaccine dose.
Among the 7,080 fully vaccinated healthcare workers, 679 developed the infection 47 days after the second dose. “The protective effect of vaccination in preventing infection, hospitalisation, need for oxygen and ICU admission were 65 per cent, 77 per cent, 92 per cent, and 94 per cent, respectively,” the study said. The study also highlighted that the only staff member who died had multiple co-morbidities and had not taken the vaccine.
Reaffirming vaccines work
The limited clinical trial data of vaccines approved for the Covid vaccination drive show a reduction in mortality and severity of disease. Healthcare workers were among the first to be prioritised for vaccination. Six months on, real-time data re-affirm that vaccines offer significant protection, specifically in high-risk groups.
The findings of CMC, Vellore are in line with surveys conducted by other top hospitals.
On Wednesday, 43 units in 24 cities of Apollo, the country’s largest private chain of hospitals, reported zero mortalities in 31,000 vaccinated healthcare workers. The study found that from January 16 to May 31, 1,355 healthcare workers were infected with Covid: of these, only 90 required hospitalisation, and three ICU care.
On May 17, Prime Minister Narenda Modi, while interacting with a group of doctors across the country, had emphasised that the “strategy of starting the vaccination programme with front line warriors has paid rich dividends in the second wave”. “About 90% of the health professionals in the country have already taken the first dose. Vaccines have ensured the safety of most of the doctors,” Modi said.
During the worst phase of the second wave, since the beginning of April this year, more than 1.75 crore people are known to have been infected while at least 2.25 lakh people have died due to Covid.
Paul, meanwhile, referred to an AIIMS-WHO study, which concluded that the seropositivity rate among children was high and comparable to the adult population, to reiterate that infection among the children was mild during the second wave.
“However, if there is a future need for child-specific treatment, oxygenation, ventilation…we will be fully prepared. There will be no gaps in preparation in both the private and public sectors” he said.
In this regard, Paul said that a meeting was held this week with states on the operationalisation of updated paediatric care guidelines. “We have to be prepared in the paediatric age group. Earlier also work was being done. Now we are doing it comprehensively looking at treatment protocol, how many services should be created, how many ventilators are required, and how to tackle the multi-system inflammatory syndrome that occurs later in infected children,” he said.
According to Paul, vaccination coverage is increasing proportionally in rural areas. “53 per cent of all vaccines given in May-June are in rural areas. Therefore, the spread will further increase and with new guidelines, it will be (vaccine coverage in rural areas) accelerated,” he said.
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